Military enjoys a picnic

Like snowflakes, each Military Appreciation Picnic is wholly unique.

Saturday’s fifth annual community get-together, sponsored by the Navy League of Oak Harbor, the city of Oak Harbor and the Greater Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Community Services, was no exception.

“This was the first year we ran out of hot dogs,” said Jill Johnson, chamber executive director. “Come to think of it, we also ran out of hot dogs at the stadium grand opening. It’s becoming a tradition. You know your event is a success when the hot dogs are gone.”

The turnout Saturday was comparable to last year’s 2,000 hungry attendees, Navy League representative Beth Munns said. The skilled, culinary volunteers estimated that between 1,500 and 1,600 people were fed.

“It was really crowded and the weather couldn’t have been better,” she said. “It was fabulous.”

Volunteers, a group definitely not lacking in numbers, helped keep the picnic rollicking and running smoothly.

“The volunteers and sponsors really came through this year, and so did the crowd,” Johnson said. Command Master Chief Francis Bagarella forwent the opportunity to don civvies, instead attending the picnic in full uniform. The Oak Harbor Fire Department provided helmet safety information. And the Oak Harbor Members of the NJROTC group pitched in where they could.

Passage, the band made up of members of the Northwest Regional Navy Band, floored the audience with their music.

“They were so good,” Munns said. “So many people came up to me and said, ‘Can you get them again?’”

In the future, the past Navy League president said she would like to see more non-military community members venture out for the picnic. But in the end, in spite of the name, the event has become a give-and-take going both ways.

“I truly feel this is a 50/50 community effort,” Munns said. “The Navy’s saying thanks to the community and the community’s saying thanks to the Navy. I was real pleased.”

With a core group of volunteers hellbent on improving the gathering, Munns said the picnic is here to stay.

“Every year we try to tweak it and make it better,” she said. “They say give a new project five years before you decide to can it or not. Well, the picnic is definitely a go.”

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