By Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer
The 43rd annual Wheatfield Family Picnic this Sunday, Aug. 6, at Fairmount Park is considered by the organizer as the highlight of the summer for the town.
The event runs from noon to 5 p.m. at the park, at the corner of Nash and Steig roads.
Mike Zarbo said came on board as chair of the event 12 years ago at the request of the former supervisor, Robert Cliffe.
The first year he held the reins, 15 people responded to an ad and volunteered to be on the picnic planning committee. This year, it has dwindled to four hard-working and dedicated volunteers.
Zarbo said, “I greatly appreciate their help. The committee is still looking for volunteers to help with the picnic.”
This year’s lineup is chock full of family events such as a plant sale, a classic car show by Wheels of Wheatfield, a magician, games, pony rides, hayrides, a petting zoo, dunk tank, rock climbing wall, music by the Bergholz Band, food and entertainment for the whole family.
Everything except the food is free. The Wheatfield Garden Club plant sale also starts at noon and will feature mums and a wide variety of perennials donated by local greenhouses.
The day begins with a flag-raising ceremony at 10:45 a.m., and Catholic and Protestant church services at 11 a.m.
Starting out a dozen years ago, Zarbo said, “We started doing fundraising and, very quickly, the businesses in town jumped right on the bandwagon, and the rest is history. We exist because of the generous support of the local businesses here in the Town of Wheatfield and we’re very thrilled to have their consistent support.
“We have several very large sponsors who help us consistently every year.” One of those is Colton RV. “They have consistently sponsored our car show from the inception of it.” In all, there are 16 additional sponsors listed who support the event.
Zarbo said tradition is upheld in “having the church services early on and the flag-raising early on, along with the Pledge of Allegiance and, of course, we play the national anthem while we’re raising the flag. We’re proud of who we are, we’re proud of this town and we believe that having the religious services at the picnic is part of a family event.”
He said the Niagara Alliance Church has been very active in the picnic right from the beginning. Holly Ann Piazza from that church, as picnic committee secretary, is one of the four active volunteers on the picnic committee. The other two, besides Zarbo and Piazza, are Jim Heuer, vice chairman; and Mike Ranalli, the committee’s recreation director.
Rita Kontak said the Wheatfield Garden Club is doing some much-needed fundraising with a plant sale that starts at noon at the picnic.
“The Garden Club buys all the plants that are around the town campus and the two gardens at Fairmount Park,” she said.
The group will also be providing the planters at the Welcome to Wheatfield signs. The Garden Club receives town reimbursement to help with those purchases, but the club also supports a speakers program on gardening topics of interest that help the members keep up with planting techniques and trends for their town projects.
Among other family-oriented events at the picnic: a kids carnival, games and there’s also a “balloon lady” who comes in, Zarbo said.
“It’s really a fun event,” he noted. “We also have another area that’s called KidsFest, where we have a bounce house, there’s crafts … a book exchange and a bean bag toss.”
Zarbo said that, when Cliffe retired as town supervisor, “he made mention of the fact that he felt it was the biggest day of the year for the Town of Wheatfield.”