Vehicles lined the curb of the Saint Mary Social Center in Richardton, Sunday Oct. 6, during the annual 'Church Dinner' that has been a mainstay of the town for more than 70 years. Over the seven decades the many activities and community members have changed, but the purpose has not — celebrating the spirit of community.

Inside the Saint Mary Social Center, echoes of cheerful conversations were barely drowned by the cries of the Bingo caller as the fragrant aroma of a freshly cooked, home-style chicken dinner wafted thick in the air. From the cake walk to the lottery wheel, residents and patrons mingled and enjoyed the spirit of community.

An auction witnessed a handful of unique and homemade items receive bids from the eager crowd. Among the more uncommon items for bid was a unique book, sharing the exploits of the history of settlers to the area. The book was written by author Charlotte Locklear.

“We had over 400 hundred people. Our goal was to have 400 people and I think we got well over that many,” Father Thomas Wordekemper, of the St. Mary's Parish, said. “The raffle has $4000 in cash prizes, and then there are other prizes as well. I think we had 32 prizes this year.”

The effort that went into ensuring that the event was successful was evident to Wordekemper.

“A lot of work goes into this each year,” Wordekemper said. “There are four of us that are chairpersons and we divide the preparation with our individual teams.”

The annual dinner brought the Richardton community together for food, activities and prizes — but most stayed for the camaraderie.

“We had a lot of different activities, from bingo to a lottery wheel, and the craft room that had a lot of variety of antique hand-work that are 75 to 100 years old,” Wordekemper said. “Dishware, glassware, homemade noodles and dumplings and a lot of other stuff too.”

Charlotte Locklear, Richardton Native and author of 'Greener Pastures: The Renner and Kopp Family Histories,' reminisced with the gathered crowds about her memories. Home for the first time this year, Locklear partook in the Church Dinner and used the opportunity to discuss her book tour of the Western Edge. She said that the Saint Mary Social Center was her High School when she was a kid.

“The day has been wonderful. I have been able to reconnect with so many of my classmates, which has been really good,” Locklear said. “Sitting with my classmates for the Church Dinner was nice… to catch up, because I haven't seen some of them for 50 years. We are all grandmothers now, and we all look pretty good for our age.”

Locklear added, “The book is about this area and my family, both sides of which were pioneers of this area. Of course my heart is still in this area.”

Speaking on the subject of her first public reading, which took place in Dickinson the day prior, Locklear said it was "really heartwarming."

“My first reading in Dickinson went very well, I think people were really receptive to it.”

Locklear personally thanked her sister for putting her book tour schedule together, and was especially happy that it allowed her to reconnect with the Western Edge and her hometown in a new way.

“All of this is so new to me… I'm excited to be sharing my story,” Locklear said. “ Any writer would be lucky to have someone like my wonderful sister Dorothy, she worked so hard to set up all of these venues… most writers find themselves in a room all by themselves with their own thoughts…then they write it, and it gets out there and then they're right to the next project.”

Locklear's book tour continues throughout the week until Sunday, where she will end it in Dunn County Museum in Dunn Center, and that more info can be found on the museum's website, www.dunncountymuseum.org or by calling 701-260-1650.

While in Dunn Center, Locklear will host a reading, book signing and a writers’ workshop from 1 to 4 p.m. Today, she will be in Bismarck, first to do a radio interview with Prairie Public’s radio program MainStreet (89.5 FM for Dickinson) at 3:06 p.m., and again at 7:06 p.m. The interview will stream online as well, and can be found at prairepublic.org.

With another community event under their belts, the St. Mary Perish and Assumption Abbey will use the funds generated to help with upkeep as well as to start new projects for their community.

“People really pull through in the end. As a pastor that is so rewarding to see people come together and serve the community,” said WordeKemper.