For the past 15 years, the skies had been relatively clear for the annual Waynedale Community Picnic, but this year, the organizers and volunteers faced huge downpours until around noon. For the organizers of the Picnic, event cancelation is just not a viable option because of the huge number of people who are involved, as well as the huge expenses of one day rentals of equipment and tents. As they say, ‘The show must go on,’ and after this year’s event, the dedicated volunteers of the Picnic know all too well how challenging that statement can be.
“The rain made it especially challenging to set up the event, typically we are setting up the day before and as soon as the sun comes up the day of. However, this year, because of the storms, we were only able to set up between heavy rainstorms. It was like a big huddle underneath the pavilion and as soon as heavy rain and lightning let off to lighter rain, volunteers rushed out to set up chairs, tables and the food tent. Needless to say, our dedicated volunteers were soaked before the event even started.” Megan Ryan, Event Chair commented.
Typically, there is a line of guests waiting to register when the “doors open” at 10am, but this year, rain poncho-ed attendees seemed to slowly but steadily file in, until the radar began to indicate the worst of the storms were over around noon, which is when the attendance began to really pick up for the event.
“We had some really tough choices to make early in the day about features of the event, not knowing if or when the rain would stop. We were in constant contact with many vendors who needed generators, Circle City Audio who sets up the sound equipment for the band, and the National Guard who brings the inflatable obstacle course; all of which generally takes over an hour to set up and couldn’t risk ruining expensive equipment with a sudden downpour.” Ryan expressed the challenges from the day.
However challenging it was for the scenario that had never happened before, heavy rain, there were many successes of the event. Over 50 volunteers came to help throughout the day, an estimated 500 guests came to enjoy the event, about 20 vendors weathered the storms to set up and offer their activities and prizes to guests, and lunch was served on time.
“Even with the rain and mud, I heard more positive, appreciative comments than events in previous years from guests and vendors. I think they understood, although we had many challenges this year, our volunteers did they best they could to make it a great day.” Ryan commented.
One of the traditions of the event is for The Waynedale News to award a member of the community the “Community Star” award. This year, Jordan Cornwell received the award, not on the stage but on the platform of the historic water fountain, which was one of the original installments when Waynedale Park was first dedicated. Cornwell, who works for The Waynedale News, has been a very active volunteer in the community as well as serving as the founding President of the Waynedale Business Chamber for 3 years. Under Cornwell’s leadership, the Chamber tackled such large projects as fundraising and working with area municipalities to install the Waynedale Emergency Weather Siren. The WBC also received approval from the Fort Wayne City Council for its Comprehensive Improvement Plan for the Bluffton/Lower Huntington Corridor, which is an ongoing project that seeks to address accessibility, the preservation of current businesses, the promotion of positive business growth, community branding, beautification and overall unification of the community. He also has volunteered his time to help organize and lend a hand at various local events.
Overcoming adversity, the community really came together to make the day the best it could be. “Every year, it takes every single volunteer, sponsor and vendor to make the event possible. I was asked by many people, “aren’t you sad about the rain ruining the event after many months of planning?” And I always responded by saying, “I don’t think the rain ruined the event, look at how much fun people are having!” Sure, it’s not exactly how we planned it, but that’s OK. We made it the best event we could with the given circumstances. That day, it definitely took everyone involved to make the community celebration a-go. I would like to thank the many dedicated volunteers and sponsors who contribute to the Picnic.” Ryan commented