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Neighbor to Neighbor: Harmony Picnic keeps volunteers, police busy

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Some weeks have all the fun. The week of July 21 was like that. Tuesday of that week Patrol Borough Queens South had scheduled the Annual Harmony Picnic to be held in Baisley Park. The weather was supposed to be very hot with the possibility of “heavy rains with thunder and lightning and possible hail.”

“Possible” is such a nice, careful word, isn’t it? “Picnic” is a nice word, too, but ordinarily one does not envision a picnic as feeding and entertaining between 6,000 and 7,000 people, most from day-care or other programs.

The police officers involved do a great deal of work prior to the event. On that day, they and the willing volunteers still had plenty to do. By 8:30 a.m. many already were there, hard at work. There still were a lot of grills, barricades, tables, chairs, boxes of food and drinks, cooking and serving utensils, and, yes, the tents to be put in place.

These comparatively new canopy-type tents are very attractive and much easier to assemble than they were a few years ago. It still is not a one-person job and the uninitiated should take a hint and tie the tent to something strong.

Some time ago, at an outdoor event, the “old” type was set up on concrete. One leg was tied to a concrete block. That leg still was tied to the concrete block when a strong gust of wind got under the tent and blew it into the air, as the assembled parts of the tent legs dropped off, one by one, and clattered to the ground. The event’s disc jockey was no longer under a roof.

That lesson was learned hard so I thought it worth passing along. Luckily, it did not happen at the Harmony Picnic, nor did it rain. Everything went very well. As always, I think the officers who man those grills on such hot days should get medals.

I hope next year they will remember to buy themselves terry cloth hats and scarves, which is what my sister advised me to do on hot days. The terry cloth items should be saturated with cold water, squeezed and worn. It worked so well last year that I added one step — I saturated, squeezed and put them in the freezer. It worked like a charm, I’m glad to say, because most of the day I helped stuff frankfurters and hamburgers in rolls for all those children.

A little way off, I could see many of the youngsters cooling off under the Baisley Park Big Spray. I also heard about the Dunk Tank and was tempted to volunteer as dunkee until one of my coworkers brought me a nice, cold, sweet chunk of watermelon. That was so good I was revived enough to keep stuffing. From what I heard the games went well, as did the box lunches that were in addition to the burgers, franks and ice cream.

The children and adults enjoyed the food and got to see and learn about many of the New York Police Department’s special units. It always is an interesting, busy day, with very few gripes as long as the youngsters enjoy themselves.

On the way to catch the bus home I found a small boy on a bike who seemed to be on the verge of tears. He told me he couldn’t find his mother and little sister. I left him with one of the very nice officers, knowing he somehow would get home, even though he couldn’t remember more than a couple of digits of his address or phone number. It is a good idea to make sure such vital information is on a child’s person when he or she is out of the house.

Along with keeping track of your children, you also should keep track of your possessions. One way to do this on outings is by bringing a fanny pack. Whenever I work at events such as the picnic, I see people leaving valuables, including keys, on a blanket or table while they are distracted with other matters. Don’t put temptation in anyone’s way and don’t take a chance on forgetting where you put something down for a minute while you greet someone you haven’t seen for a couple of years. Those hello-again hugs can make us lose track of what we’re doing. I hope I remember where I put my glasses soon!

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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