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Picnic in the Park draws enthusiastic crowd

Kenmare Association of Commerce members disproved the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Thursday in the City Park Square.

8/11/15 (Tue)

Evening in the park... A line of people winding from the Danish Mill nearly to Division Street formed when Kenmare Association of Commerce volunteers began serving their customer appreciation meal Thursday. People from Kenmare, as well as other parts of the nrothwest region, attended the event.

By Marvin Baker

Kenmare Association of Commerce members disproved the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Thursday in the City Park Square.

Approximately 375 people were served a full meal, free of charge, just for dropping by downtown Kenmare for a social visit.

Association of Commerce President Heidi Robbins was one of the organizers of the annual event that goes back at least 47 years.

She considered it a great success despite the threat of rain, because of the amount of food served, because of the amount of time people lingered and visited as well as those who stuck around to listen to live music.

Robbins said the picnic is the best way the Association of Commerce, with its more than 70 members, can give back to the community that keeps a small town main street vibrant.

“It’s for the businesses to show our appreciation to our customers for supporting us,” Robbins said. “It’s to give back to the community members.”

Robbins, who was working the door prize table, said there were more than 20 volunteers who set up the venue, cooked and served and broke it all down after the event.

“It takes a lot to make this work and it’s fun to get to work with new people,” she said. “We served for a couple of hours and it went very well despite the rain.”

The meal consisted of your choice of hamburger or hot dog, potato chips, baked beans, fresh fruit, coffee or lemonade.

And after the meal, Dr. Eric Ganes was seen with an entourage of children as he passed out ice cream treats to everyone in sight.

Robbins said she gauged the success of the event on the number of people served, the two hours it took to serve 375 people and the casual, social atmosphere of the evening.

“People said how nice it was to get together, visit and bring the kids out,” Robbins said. “Everything about it was positive.”

That included a dunking booth in which former Kenmare police officer Jason Cartier and lifeguards from the Kenmare swimming pool sat on plank while people of all ages purchased chances to dunk them into the pool.

It didn’t take long for Cartier, who is now a Burke County deputy, to take a bath.

People were lined up to sink Cartier who was talking trash as people attempted to hit the target.

The event remained popular throughout the evening, even as the smell of fresh grilled hamburgers wafted toward the dunking booth.

Lifeguards took their turns as well, and yes, they all got wet at least one time.

Other events included inflatable bouncy houses and face painting for the children, live music by Larry Nelson, free rides to the picnic who didn’t have transportation and simultaneously, the Kenmare Farmers’ Market was held in the northwest part of the park.

Door prizes donated by local businesses, were given away to adults and children and people bought raffle tickets for a chance to win $4,000 in cash from the local Lions Club.

Robbins, who has been in Kenmare six years, said the crowd was slightly above average in the years she has been in the community.

It was good to see many new faces, as well as those familiar faces we see every day, according to Robbins.

“I saw a lot of people I’ve never seen before,” she said.

Kenmare, Donnybrook, Carpio, Berthold, Bowbells, Lignite, Sherwood, Mohall, Minot, Coulee, Portal, Stanley and Parshall were all represented, along with numerous others, including Texas and Wyoming and one young man who just returned to North Dakota from a foreign exchange student program in Norway.

Last year the Association of Commerce didn’t have the event because the North Dakota Petroleum Council sponsored a similar event in the park in July.

But Robbins, who has now been involved in five of these community summer picnics, was pleased with food, the logistics, the can do attitude of the volunteers and the people who came out to take part in the festive atmosphere.

“This is an Association of Commerce event and folks from many businesses get together to do this,” Robbins said. “We get ready and we serve the community. That’s what it’s all about.”