North End Community Renewal Corporation (NECRC) is preparing for its annual Picnic in the Park, which takes place Aug. 23 at St. John’s Park from noon to 4 p.m.
First held in 1999, the family fun day attracted approximately 500 people in its inaugural year. Since then, Picnic in the Park has seen its attendance figures rise every year, with 4,500 people taking in the festivities in 2013.
Martin Landy, NECRC communications and event co-ordinator, said the North End celebration gets bigger and better year after year because of its ever-growing list of partners and sponsors.
"We’ve got great sponsorship this year," Landy said. "Winnipeg Old Country Sausage, they’re donating hot dogs. Canada Breads is donating 4,500 buns. We’ve got a 40-foot refrigeration truck (from Ocean Trailer). The community has really stepped up."
In addition to free food and beverage, Picnic in the Park features a number of kids’ activities, 35 artisan and community group tables and live music and entertainment presented by Aboriginal Music Week. This year’s entertainment includes aboriginal pop artist Inez Jasper, First Nations rock band The Mosquitoz, fiddler Darren Lavallee with the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers and the Diamond Disc Dogs, a group of Frisbee-catching canines.
Picnic in the Park will also feature workshops by Graffiti Art Programming, skateboarding demonstrations and a free bike valet, with Natural Cycle on hand to provide free bicycle maintenance.
Also, the St. John’s Park pool will be open. Landy said if it’s a hot day there will be a sprinkler set up for kids to run through.
Speaking of water, Landy said Picnic in the Park will be a "water bottle-free zone."
"The City is giving us a water truck and we’ve got World of Water donating 20 jugs of water," Landy said. "We’re asking people to bring their reusable water bottles, Slurpee cups, whatever and we’ll provide them with cold, clean fresh water. We don’t want to see 4500 plastic water bottles."
In addition to the aforementioned sponsors and partners, Picnic in the Park receives funding from such organizations as Manitoba Public Insurance, James Richardson & Sons Limited, The Winnipeg Foundation and Assiniboine Credit Union.
"This is our 15th year so the event is really gathering a lot of momentum. We get more and more people asking about sponsoring the event," Landy said.
"It’s NECRC’s signature event, but we work with all of our other community helpers. We have Aboriginal Visioning, Mount Carmel Clinic, FACT (Family and Communities Together), Ma Mawi, Ndinawe, all of these organizations sit on our committee. Everything we do is community-based. We’re not just putting this on and saying ‘This is what we think people want.’ We meet with the community. We take the feedback from last year and we plan, ‘How can we make this event bigger and better?’"
Landy, 56, who grew up and lives in the North End, said the community is all about collaboration.
"It’s a big area and there’s not a lot of money. We don’t want to fight for the dollars, we want to maximize what we can do and this (Picnic in the Park) is the best example of maximizing the few dollars we have," Landy said.