A favorite tradition at The Sea Ranch is the annual VFD BBQ picnic, held on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend at One-Eyed Jack’s. For many Sea Ranchers, the picnic is the first community “event” that they attended here. Some folks who attended as children now bring their children, and make the picnic an annual family ritual to kick off the summer season. The VFD is proud to host the picnic, and grateful to the community that both attends and helps to put it on. The picnic is the VFD’s major fundraiser of the year. NSCVFA (formerly TSRVFD) needs to raise money separate from county tax dollars in order to maintain the North Fire Station, and to pay for equipment, training, and other expenses.
The first “Community Barbecue to benefit The Sea Ranch Volunteer Fire Department” was put on by The Sea Ranch Association Recreation Committee, on July 1, 1973. (The VFD was incorporated in February, 1973). The first picnic was held at The Hot Spot. Hamburgers and chili were available for $1.25, and soft drinks, beer, and wine was available for sale, but anything else was “pot-luck”. The first event went so well (the VFD raised about $200!) that a second event was scheduled for the same year, on September 1, but this one was at the “Unit 24 Playground” (now “One-Eyed Jack’s”). In 1974 the spring picnic shifted to Memorial Day weekend, but was still held at The Hot Spot, while the Labor Day Weekend picnic continued in Unit 24. In 1976, Smokey Bear made his appearance.
Over the years, the picnic grew and developed, and the loyal supporters who help the VFD put the picnic on honed the picnic process into a well-oiled machine. The spring picnic outgrew The Hot Spot and moved to One-Eyed Jack’s. Each year some new faces arrive, others are no longer there, and a large familiar group returns each year to share their time, effort, and expertise. Different picnic features have appeared over the years (sales of shirts, hats, aprons, and cookbooks; professional photographs with Smokey…), and have stayed or been discarded as interests change. Veggie burgers and hot links seem to be here to stay! And sometimes (happily, rarely!) it rains.
The core of the picnic, however, remains: A good-natured gathering of friends and neighbors, celebrating community, the approach of summer, and supporting a good cause. A small army of cooks prepare and donate homemade slaw, brownies, cupcakes, and lemon squares, and fruit. Firefighters and friends show up early with pickup trucks and gloves to haul all of the equipment to the picnic grounds, and then reappear at the end of the day to take it all back again. Volunteers start the morning cutting up tomatoes, onions, and lettuce, and end the afternoon scrubbing the bean pots and serving utensils. Smiling helpers hand out plates and serve burgers ‘n dogs, slaw, beans, fruit, and banter. The “Bean Boss” and their assistants keep the pots of beans (made with the “secret bean recipe!) simmering all afternoon. The dessert team keeps some of “Kathi’s Killer Brownies” back so that those who especially ask for them can get one and not be disappointed. The bar staff keeps the drinks cool and the welcome warm. The kids (and others) throw water balloons, run in sack races, and play tug o’ war. And of course, Smokey Bear always makes an appearance.
The picnic continued to be held twice a year through 2007. In 2008 the decision was made to hold only the Memorial Day picnic and not the Labor Day picnic. The reason was that attendance at the Labor Day picnic was consistently much smaller than the earlier picnic, and the end result of the funds raised was small compared to the effort expended by the VFD and their supportive army of volunteers. The VFD decided that one picnic a year was enough, and that they would develop additional, different fundraising efforts.
The VFD is very grateful to all of those who attend and/or help with the picnic each year; it would not be possible to put on without you. We hope to see old friends returning every year, and that newcomers will consider becoming part of our community tradition by attending the NSCVFA Memorial Day Picnic, as a guest, a volunteer, or both! If you would like to join the Picnic Team, please send email to NSCVFA and we will add you to the list!