The annual governor’s summer picnics started in 1959 when Alaska became the 49th state. A full page ad from the 1960 Knik Arm Courier contained the following information:
“The 2nd Annual Governor’s Picnic will be held at the Chugiak Carnival Grounds on Sunday, June 12, beginning at noon. Governor Egan will give an address. An invitation to President Eisenhower to attend has been sent by telegram. There will be a barbecue, rides and bingo at this grand community gathering.
“Picnic chairman George Allen felt that a display of community spirit and industrious effort might indeed make Chugiak a consideration as the site of the new state capital, especially since U.S. Senators Bartlett and Gruening and Rep. Rivers and Lyndon Johnson would be attending.”
Over the last decade or more the format consisted of four separate picnics at the most populated areas of the state: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and at the State Fairgrounds in Palmer. Two years ago the Parnell administration decided to add a “traveling picnic” in an effort to reach out to some of the state’s outlying communities.
According to Sharon Leighow, Gov. Sean Parnell’s press secretary, the administration solicited proposals from interested communities and the first town chosen to host the traveling picnic for 2012 was Glennallen. This year, several towns were in the running to be the host community and Homer was the 2013 winner.
“We base the decision on a variety of factors. What type of venue is proposed. How much community support is in place and is there a solid volunteer plan,” Leighow said.
Katie Koester from the Homer City Manager’s office is organizing the local effort. She said there is quite a bit of local excitement surrounding the July 25 event.
“Everyone is welcome and we are still looking for a variety of help from the community,” she said.
Volunteers are still needed to help with such tasks as greeting, setting up, parking and cleaning up. There will be special provisions in place to accommodate the elderly and handicapped. Many local businesses have stepped forward to provide both financial and in-kind donations but more support is welcome and needed, she said.
Koester noted that there won’t be much need for servers at the event since Gov. Parnell, his wife, Sandy, and his entire Cabinet will be providing that service to interact with people in a true public service setting.
The picnic will be from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, July 25, at Karen Hornaday Park.
Food and entertainment will be provided and everyone is welcome. Individuals and businesses that want to help or contribute can contact Koester at 435-3101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In accordance with the governor’s family picnic guidelines:
• The picnic is a free, non-partisan event that is open to the public;
• It may not be funded by government funds (federal, state, or city);
• No business transactions may occur;
• All food, beverages, and activities are free and available to the public;
• It is paid for with money raised by the community through fundraising;
• Sponsorships in the form of financial or in-kind donations may be accepted; and
• The community hosting the event is responsible for planning (location, program, event details, etc.) and nominating the local committee members.