On a cold January night, nine years ago, a group of volunteers met at the Wheatfield Community Center to resurrect the Wheatfield Family Picnic, a tradition that had been dormant for some time. Starting with just a few dollars left over from the last picnic years before, the group set out to solicit donations from local businesses to pay for the picnic and make it free to all who attend.
The current committee -- Will Bush, Don Dee, John Donner, Sharon DiPasquale, Jim Heuer, Holly Piazza, Mike Ranalli, Nancy Rosie and Mike Zarbo -- is made up almost entirely of the original members. Because of the generosity of local businesses, the committee has been able to grow this event to where it is today. Every year, hundreds of families enjoy a fun-filled day of family-oriented activities entirely free except for food.
The 41st annual picnic will be held at Fairmount Park, Nash and Stieg roads, on Sunday, Aug. 18. The picnic starts at 10:45 a.m. with the raising of the American flag by veterans from American Legion Post 1451 and the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by the Bergholz German Band. Immediately following at 11 a.m. are Catholic and Protestant services. Picnic events begin at noon and run until 5 p.m.
The picnic has a variety of activities for the young and not so young, ranging from a concert by the Bergholz German Band and Bingo, to pony rides and a rock-climbing wall. SkyHunters Birds of Prey will again have their popular collection of live raptors including a rare eagle, one of very few in captivity. The Niagara Alliance Church will sponsor the Kids Fest, with activities of all kinds suitable for kids of all ages. Other popular events include a K-9 demonstration by the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, a magician, a petting zoo, free Bingo with gift cards as prizes to name a few.
Other traditional events will take place at the picnic as well. The 15th Wheels of Wheatfield Car Show will be held at the park featuring classic cars of all genres with trophies for the best car in each class chosen by the car owners themselves. Several local restaurants and organizations will be on site offering a variety of food such as hot dogs, pizza, roast beef sandwiches, fried Oreos and, this year, cupcakes, all at affordable prices. The Bergholz Fire Co. will again have its famous chowder and the Wheatfield Nitros will sell Chiavetta’s chicken and sponsor a basket raffle to raise funds for the softball teams.
Other than food, everything at the picnic is free. That is only possible because the donations from business sponsors cover the cost of many of the events. Many of these businesses are small local mom and pop organizations that depend on area support and the committee urges picnic goers to patronize them.
A list of picnic sponsors can be found on the picnic’s Facebook page and in a brochure published in the Tribune the Thursday before the picnic. Last year, the picnic committee gained tax-exempt status and donations to the picnic are tax-deductible. Any organization that would like information on becoming a sponsor can email the committee at [email protected] or talk to a member of the committee.
A schedule of the events at the picnic can also be found in the Niagara-Wheatfield Tribune published on Aug. 15, the Thursday before the picnic, along with a list of the picnic’s sponsors. The Wheatfield Family Picnic is an event the whole family can enjoy, have a great time, and not break the bank.