The first Great American Picnic, presented by the Association of the U.S. Army, was held Saturday to bring Puyallup and Sumner together with the military community.
“Failure is not an option,” Col. Douglas McBride of the 593rd Sustainment Brigade said with the laugh. “We are dominating the competition.”
The participating partner units from Joint Base Lewis-McChord were The 2-2 Strykers
Puyallup and Sumner are both familiar with community pride through healthy competition. City officials, the partner units and their families, as well as members from both communities were at the Daffodil Valley Sports Complex in Sumner.
The picnic had a timed schedule for each field game. They played soccer, volleyball, ran in a sack race and held a water balloon toss.
The star spangled banner opened the event at 11 a.m., and the celebration went on until 4 p.m.
The overcast sky and 59-degree weather didn’t deter picnic-goers. With a full parking lot and cars packing side streets, the event was well-attended by both communities.
The Rhubarbarians also attended and brought their love for Sumner’s rhubarb-infused culture with a twist of barbarian and Viking appearances. The Rhubarbarians participated in a food drive earlier this month and will be present at the Sumner Fine Arts Festival, which is scheduled for Aug. 2-4.
Rhubarbarian Vern Hagglund said they are at most of the events in Sumner.
“Sometimes we show up when we’re not invited, but we’ve never been kicked out,” he said.
Hagglund stood out among the groups of Puyallup and Sumner citizens. He makes his own Rhubarbarian gear and was dressed to the nines in a well-put-together Viking-esque ensemble.
The AUSA has worked with Sumner for months to provide aid for community and military events. Eric Cantor, a representative of AUSA, described the relationship as harmonious. They have worked together to establish a connection between the community and their military partner units that will last for years, he said.
Cantor said local business sponsors are critical to help fund these types of events. Sunset Chevrolet and Heritage Bank were two of several sponsors. Heritage Bank also attended as a vendor, as well as Trident University and Act 1 Theatre Productions.
Sumner Communications Director Carmen Palmer helped to set up the first event. She was inspired by an old newspaper article that revealed that Sumner and Puyallup had regular community picnics together nearly a century ago. The desire to connect more personally with the cities and partner units also was a goal, she said.
“We each have our connector units, but it’s sometimes hard to get to know the individual soldiers,” Palmer said.
Puyallup City Council member Tom Swanson helped to gather the community and its partner unit. He said the Great American Picnic is about getting the communities to continue to bond together by building traditions.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Johnson of the 2-2 Stryker Unit heard Puyallup was looking for a partner unit, and that’s how the Strykers became involved.
“We are always ready to give back to the community that supports us,” Johnson said.
All of the money raised from the vendors and sponsors at AUSA events goes to support their troops. That includes putting together welcome-home baskets with snacks and other goodies in the typically foodless rooms of home-bound soldiers.
Team Sumner had seven victories out of nine competitions.
McBride said there’s nothing better than some healthy competition, and that they want to utilize the community-connector program to put a strong military face in the community.
• Soccer: Sumner 6, Puyallup 5
• Volleyball: Sumner 21, Puyallup 19
• Basketball: Sumner 30, Puyallup 20
• Sack races: Sumner
• Water balloons: Puyallup
• Three-legged race: Puyallup
• Pie vs. scones: Sumner
• Softball: Sumner 11, Puyallup 9
• Tug of war: SumnerElsy Pawelak is a freelance reporter for the Herald.