Picnic battled Mother Nature - and won

Sep 12, 2019 Betty Starks Case

You may visualize an assisted-living home as a quiet place of slow activity. If you do, you need the enlightenment and experience of a fourth annual Homestead Picnic.

On the day prior to the big event, 10 big tents spring up like a garden of mushrooms on the huge back lawn of Homestead Assisted Living.

It's a sight to see. Under each tent stands a long table with chairs to seat 16 people.

Inside the adjoining dining room, two room-long tables each seat 30 or more.

This gala event occurs every year in early September - right here in Riverton, Wyoming.

You can't imagine the excitement, unless, of course, you are fortunate enough to be the guest of a Homestead resident.

Residents number around 46, and by the time each invites a few family members, our numbers swell beyond belief.

Homestead staff's preparations for the picnic are an adventure in themselves. Work and laughter abound while the rest of us look on and try to stifle unsolicited ideas.

This year, nature, determined to play a part, lit the outdoor area with sunshine most of the pre-picnic day. I noticed a few dark clouds hovering in the northwest skies, but a check of the weather had not forecast anything threatening.

These clouds, after all, were not thunderheads.

By evening, the scene, enhanced by the patio between the building and picnic area with plants, a small garden-size cow and calf, a pig, bird feeders and other artistic creations led the eye to the outdoor picnic scene - the garden of mushroom tents on our huge back lawn.

Then the dark clouds moved in.

Wind blew, hit the tents like a bullseye, and rain beat down.

The tents were lowered. Staff went home, feeling they'd done all possible to protect the scene.

I stayed up and watched.

If you've followed this column for years, you know this writer lives in awe of nature from almost any angle.

My heart sank as I watched the tents collapse into what resembled heaps of huge wet rags. All of them.

To me, our wonderful dream picnic was ruined.

Then suddenly, the wind and rain dissipated. A beautiful rainbow appeared in the east, lighting the skies from north to south.

A few minutes later, a second rainbow arched over the first, filling the scene with glorious color and hope.

"What can we do with this sad mess below?" I asked the radiant skies.

How might residents help our staff?

And yet - they were here to assist us.

Next morning (I should have known) our manager and staff appeared, confident, organized, and ready to bring our dream picnic back to life.

I believe I saw the operations manager of the Reach Foundation at work - as he always is when we need help.

Almost like magic to me, the tents stood erect, tables were organized and, would you believe, Homestead Assisted Living hosted about 220 people to a picnic of the highest caliber.

For those who preferred, the dining room tables forming two long single units were served inside.

There, the kitchen came alive, while outside, country music filled the air as the big cooker was fired up. Hamburgers and hot dogs lent their fragrance to plates of down-home potato salad, chips and baked beans, sweet onion slices, pickles, lemonade, and desserts of fruit, melon and ice cream.

Did everyone have a good time?

The music, conversation and laughter sang its own song in the almost-autumn air.

Next day, the tents, tables and chairs were folded and ready for storage until the fifth annual Homestead Picnic in 2020.

And a huge number of lucky people said, "THANK YOU!"

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