Thousands enjoy Kennewick Labor Day Picnic

Food, music and hot rods drew thousands to the fourth-annual Labor Day Picnic in Columbia Park.

The event is organized by several area labor unions as a way to give back to the community and celebrate the American worker, said Dave Hickman, president of the organizing committee for the event. It was free of charge.

“It’s the men and women of America that make America great,” said Hickman, a member of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 598 who is working on Hanford’s vitrification plant. “The labor unions got together so we can give a little back to the community and celebrate the people who built America.”

Families waited in line for food, while kids made sure to get cotton candy. Entertainment was provided on the park’s stage by Luke Jackson of Spokane, and 85 cars were on display, featuring rides from local Corvette, Mustang and hot rod clubs.

“You’ve got a car, you’ve got a bike, we don’t care what it is, bring it on down,” said volunteer Danny Larsen, assistant manager with the Plumbers and Steamfitters.

Organized labor has especially been in the spotlight this year, with Pasco teachers missing the first week of school because of a strike and strikes threatened in Prosser and other Washington cities. Many at the event showed support for the Pasco Association of Educators, filling out postcards addressed to school board members.

“We support them 100 percent,” Larsen said. “We need to take care of our teachers who helped raise our kids and are now helping our grandkids.”

Organizers decided to make enough food for 3,000 people this year after giving away food for 2,250 in 2014, Hickman said. They were planning to donate anything left over to local food banks.

They helped get money for the event through fundraisers at Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Atomic Bowl in Richland.

The event uses more than 100 volunteers, many of them preparing food. Hickman said they made 2,400 hamburgers, 1,100 hot dogs, plus plenty of potato salad and baked beans.

People came from as far away as Spokane, Yakima and Hermiston for the event, said Vicky Allison, a member of the organizing committee and union representative for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1439. They try to get food from union stores like Albertsons, Safeway and Ray’s Meat.

Preparations for the picnic last all year, she said.

“The way I look at it is all unions come together for labor to let people know what Labor Day is all about,” Allison said.

Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom