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Long standing pioneer picnic tradition no more

For six decades the families of the pioneers who helped found and grow the community of Sunnyside have been meeting religiously each year to share tales of the past and revel in each other’s company.

That long standing tradition - known as Sunnyside’s annual pioneer picnic - has apparently come to a close.

The organizing committee, now mostly comprised of senior citizens and whose numbers have shrunk over the years, no longer has the manpower - or the will - to continue on hosting the once popular event.

The president of the pioneer picnic organization, Bill Flower, informed his fellow committee members this week, as well as the news media, that Central Park will not come alive the third Saturday of June with those familiar faces that routinely made their way back to Sunnyside each summer.

“It is with deepest regret that the committee for the annual pioneer picnic has come to the conclusion that we can no longer host the event,” Flower said in a letter he sent to those dedicated patrons of past picnics.

“Our committee has dwindled to a hand-full of dedicated seniors, who unfortunately can’t keep up with the physical requirements of dragging tables, setting up easels and climbing ladders for the sound system.

“We have enjoyed participating in this event for the past 60 years, but it’s worse than pulling hen’s teeth to get a younger generation to not only be interested in attending, but also to be on the organizing committee...so we feel we need a rest,” Flower continued.

Flower noted that attendance figures at the pioneer picnic haven’t topped 70 participants for several years.

Noted historian, author and celebrated Sunnyside legend Roscoe Sheller initially organized the first pioneer picnic in observance of the city of Sunnyside’s 50th anniversary. The city was officially incorporated in 1902.

Flower suggests that on Saturday, June 15, the day this year’s pioneer picnic would have been held, a great alternative is for all Sunnyside residents to remember the Lower Yakima Valley’s pioneers.

“Make yourself a nice peanut butter sandwich, pour a glass of wine and know that there are a whole bunch of others who are picnicking and toasting with you without the hassle of driving a distance,” he told long-time picnic patrons.

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