9/19/2013 5:15:00 PM Annual Pioneer Picnic returns Sunday Kovacovich family to be honored
George Kovacovich, right, was born in Camp Verde nearly 93 years ago. Pictured with his son Bob on the family’s farm in Camp Verde, the Kovacovich family will be honored at Sunday’s annual Pioneer Picnic, sponsored by the Camp Verde Historical Society. VVN/Bill Helm
An undated photograph of Camp Verde’s annual Pioneer Picnic. For several years, the picnic was held at Montezuma Well. Shirley Brinkman, past picnic chairperson, says the picnic is “an opportunity for people who have known each other for years to get together and talk about the area.” Photo courtesy Camp Verde Historical Society.
CAMP VERDE - In 1907, Manda Balen left her home in Croatia to marry a man she had never met.
The man's name was Nikola Kovacevic. He too was originally from Croatia. But by 1906, he was living in the then-booming mining town of Jerome.
In 1913, after a two-year stay back in Croatia, the Kovacevic family returned to the Verde Valley. In 1916, they bought a farm in Camp Verde.
Known to family as Baba and Dede, Manda and Nikola changed their surname to Kovacovich.
On Sunday, the family of Baba and Dede Kovacovich will be honored at the Camp Verde's annual Pioneer Picnic.
Officially, the town's first Pioneer Picnic was held at the Clemenceau School House in 1927. But it was not until last year that the Camp Verde Historical Society, the annual picnic's host, decided to pay tribute to the town's pioneers at the gathering.
This is the second year that Lois Williams has served as the annual picnic's chairperson. Williams came up with the idea of honoring Camp Verde's pioneering families at the picnic.
"Why have a Pioneer Picnic without honoring one of these families," Williams questioned. "This is special, honoring these families. It's kind of like a family reunion for them."
With close to 30 family members expected to attend the picnic, Bob Kovacovich, one of Baba and Dede's grandchildren, looks forward to the gathering.
"We're glad to be honored," said Bob, a Camp Verde resident and former town council member. "Our family came to America in 1902, moved to Jerome in 1906, then later to the farm in 1916. We're just glad they chose this part of the area to settle in."
Bob's father George Kovacovich is one of Baba and Dede's eight children. George was born on the family's farm nearly 93 years ago.
The Kovacovich family has attended many of the annual Pioneer Picnic events. Bob recalls many times when the picnic was held at Montezuma Well.
"It's one of the few times all the old-timers can get together," Bob said. "It's a good function for the Town. It's good for families to get together. It's like a Verde Valley homecoming."
Sunday's picnic will be at the Community Center on Main and Hollamon. Doors open at 11 a.m. with lunch served at noon. The Historical Society will provide the meat (BBQ beef and baked chicken) and the beverages (lemonade, iced tea and coffee). The picnic is open to the public. Anyone who would like to attend should plan to bring a side dish or dessert, and the appropriate serving utensil.