NICOLE EMERY OF GREENE reacts after kissing a cod during the annual Newfie Picnic at the home of Steve and Daphne Izer in Lisbon on Saturday. DARYN SLOVER / SUN JOURNAL

NICOLE EMERY OF GREENE reacts after kissing a cod during the annual Newfie Picnic at the home of Steve and Daphne Izer in Lisbon on Saturday. DARYN SLOVER / SUN JOURNAL

LISBON

As the sun started to set on a long day of celebrating, a crowd of more than 100 natural and honorary Newfoundlanders gathered on Daphne and Steve Izer’s lawn to watch as a batch of new honorary Newfies were sworn in.

Bill Flaherty, dressed as a Newfoundland sea captain, presided as the seven inductees ate hardtack, bologna and capelin fish. The three traditional foods of their homeland are considered the most difficult to eat. If you can eat them, Flaherty said, then you can become an honorary Newfie.

Once the first task is completed, the true test begins: Each person has to kiss, full on the mouth, a dead cod. To wash down the taste, you take a large shot of Newfie Screech, a strong rum.

The rest of the crowd cheered as their new members completed the “screeching in.”

The Izers started hosting the annual Newfie Picnic at their home in Lisbon about 35 years ago as a way to bring Newfoundlanders together.

“They’re wonderful people,” Daphne Izer said. Every year, as the celebration has grown, she’s met more Newfoundlanders.

The Izers open up their home to anyone who wants to come, and their yard becomes a campground, parking lot and party all in one. Some people travel from as far south as Texas and as far north as Newfoundland itself.

Those who travel from afar bring campers or tents to stay overnight.

Judy from Ontario said she met Daphne Izer in a nursing class about 50 years ago in Newfoundland. “This is my first time here,” she said. “This is so special, there are a lot of Newfoundlanders here.”

One of the main events of the weekend is the group of mummers that come out to dance and rile up the crowd.

They came out in full, over-the-top, identity-disguising costumes and get up close and personal with the crowd.

With masks or cloth over their faces and bras on the outside of their dresses, the goal is to guess who is under the mask.

Steve Izer said that mummering is a tradition at Christmastime in Newfoundland. They go from house to house dancing, dressed in outlandish disguises and with their faces covered. If you guess who a person is, he or she has to take the mask off.

“There’s no method to how they dress,” he said. “Some wear underwear on their head or outside of their clothes.”

Linda from Poland said she’s been coming to the picnic for five years. “I’m an honorary Newfie; my husband came from there,” she said.

After meeting Daphne in a pub in Maine, at a table full of people dancing in their seats and laughing, she wanted to belong to the community.

“They’re special people,” she said. “It’s nice how much they all love each other. And Daphne, she continues the relationship all year long, reaching out and keeping in touch.”

Don Constantino, who grew up in Newfoundland and now lives in Florida, said Newfies are “the best people in the world.”

He still owns a house in Newfoundland, so he can visit with family and “because it’s so beautiful.”

And, Constantino said, “these people know how to party. It doesn’t end until the last bottle’s empty.”

This year’s Newfie Picnic was dedicated to Christy Brown Williams, who married Scott Williams at last year’s celebration.

A longtime friend and attendee, Christy Brown Williams passed away on Valentine’s Day of an unexpected aneurysm at the age of 44.

“Christy’s two wishes were to get married at the Newfie Picnic — which they had been traveling to from Newfoundland for five years — and to live in Florida,” Daphne Izer said.

Williams, her husband, and her two children moved to St. Petersburg last year.

Daphne said Williams was the reason the picnic grew to such a big event: She created a Facebook page that got a lot of attention.

“It goes without saying, we were all extremely shocked and saddened,” Daphne Izer said. “Christy has an impact on all whom she met.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: