All County Picnic comes to your front yard

Brennan LaBrie blabrie@ptleader.com
Posted 8/13/20

You might notice an unusual amount of people picnicking in their front yards this weekend. 

These people will be participating in the eighth annual “All County Picnic,” only this …

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All County Picnic comes to your front yard

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You might notice an unusual amount of people picnicking in their front yards this weekend. 

These people will be participating in the eighth annual “All County Picnic,” only this time without leaving their properties.

The “Picnic in Place” event is planned for Sunday, Aug. 16 and strives to be “a community wide celebration of resilience and emergency preparedness,” according to the Production Alliance, which is presenting the picnic in coordination with Local 20/20 and the Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management.

“Now, more than ever, we need to strengthen the bonds of friendship and collaboration in our community to improve not only our ability to weather this crisis but also to support our mental and emotional health,” said Danny Milholland, director of operations for the Production Alliance.

The event will include free delivery of corn on the cob, an All County Picnic tradition, and a virtual presentation on the local COVID-19 response with the Department of Emergency Management and other leaders in public safety and emergency response.

For the past seven summers, the picnic has brought county residents together at HJ Carroll Park in Chimacum, with more than 40 booths offering local products, services and information, as well as presentations, demonstrations, games, and live music. 

The main goal of the picnic since its inception has been to promote community engagement and cooperation in terms of emergency preparedness, Milholland said.

At past picnics, the Department of Emergency Management has offered workshops, presentations and information on how neighborhoods can band together to prepare for natural disasters and other unforeseen events. Demonstrations range from canning food to creating grab-and-go kits and starting community gardens. 

In addition, picnic-goers have had the opportunity to meet with local elected officials and law enforcement members to get to know the people who they might count on in an emergency. 

However, the primary goal is for neighborhoods and communities to create structures that could support them through an emergency if outside help cannot immediately come, a possibility in a small, rural county with few routes in and out.

While past picnics have focused on encouraging preparation for natural disasters such as the earthquakes and tsunamis that can be expected in the Puget Sound, Department of Emergency Management spokesperson Keppie Keplinger said that COVID-19 and its unforeseen consequences is a perfect example of an unexpected event that neighborhoods should prepare for.

“I think the experience we’ve all unfortunately had with this pandemic is that you can go to the store and the shelves will be empty, and different things that you could have done you now cannot now do due to this situation,” Keplinger said.

“We’re encouraging everyone to lean into their neighborhood, making sure they know their neighbors,” Milholland said. “In the case of an emergency, knowing who your neighbors are could be life or death.”

“The vision is that, ultimately, all of Jefferson County residents have a support network of their neighbors,” he added.

Participants are encouraged to take this year’s at-home picnic as an opportunity to engage with their neighbors and build the foundation of a strong community support system. 

How people go about it, Milholland said, is up to them.

“We’re encouraging neighborhoods to get creative,” he said, adding that one neighborhood has planned a dog walking parade, while another one is encouraging residents to take stock of their emergency supplies and put flags in their yard upon completion.

Milholland believes that the past picnics have been “extremely successful” in promoting their vision of cooperative neighborhoods.

“There are a lot of neighborhoods that have really embraced this and have done a lot to organize themselves.”

The Department of Emergency Management presentation will be held at 5 p.m. Aug. 16. To RSVP, organize your household’s picnic, or register for a free corn delivery, visit allcountypicnic.org.

While Milholland hopes the picnic is back on next August at HJ Carroll Park, he said that the picnic-in-place event may be the start of a new tradition.

“Celebration is such a good platform for creating community,” he said. “Breaking bread with your neighbors is a powerful tradition. I think everyone can get into having friendly neighborhood relations ... It’s a fun easy connecting way to build resilience and prepare for the great unknowns that are always a part of the mystery of life.”

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