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Thank you for your service

Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor is a popular spot for picnics and there was a big one Saturday.

Community groups rallied together to provide an afternoon of food and fun for members of the military and their families.

“It’s just basically letting the community salute the military,” said Priscilla Heistad, executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Around 75 residents volunteered their time to cook a picnic lunch for military families. While cooks were busy preparing burgers, hot dogs, and barbecue pork sandwiches, a long line of volunteers gathered underneath the huge tent to serve families their meal.

“It’s a good community and a good community project,” said Roger Anglum, owner of Dairy Valley who spent Saturday afternoon flipping burgers for the families.

Heistad estimated 1,200 people attended the picnic, which was organized by the chamber, the City of Oak Harbor, the Navy League and the Moral Welfare and Recreation office on the base.

Pioneer Savings, Windermere Whidbey Island, Militarywives.com, Wal-Mart and Cramer’s Furniture were some of the nearly 40 businesses that sponsored the event.

In addition to the food, people also listened to live music, and the children had some inflatable toys where they could play and jump around. While the weather had cooled in recent days, the sun shined brightly for the picnic.

“We definitely got some great weather today,” Heistad said.

The children’s activities were a nice touch that families appreciated.

“It’s better than last year,” said Oak Harbor resident Christy Kissler. “There’s more for the kids to do.”

Another person appreciated the community recognition.

“This is amazing. It’s great to see the community acutally support the military,” said David Delano, who is a career counselor for VAQ 138.

This marked the third year of the military appreciation picnic. The first year drew approximately 2,000 people and last year’s picnic drew approximately 1,000 people.

Previous picnics took place around the Fourth of July holiday. This year, however, organizers decided to hold it in September.

“We’re kind of experimenting with the dates,” Heistad said. By holding the picnic in September, she hoped more families would be on the island to enjoy the picnic. Judging by Saturday’s big turnout of happy kids playing in the sunshine, the strategy worked.

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