Arlene and Wayne Neely were enjoying a plate of barbecue Sunday at a picnic table surrounded by a couple hundred neighbors doing the same inside the Show Pavilion at the Lake County Fairgrounds.
“We are here every year. We never miss it,” Arlene Neely, of Crown Point, said.
The residents gathered for the 10th annual City Wide Picnic, a free event hosted by the city and staffed by city workers and elected officials who serve up a free menu of pulled pork, hamburgers, hot dogs and the trimmings for residents and their guests.
“(The food) is really good. It’s fun. Everybody has a chance to get out and get together,” she said.
Wayne Neely was raised in city and graduated from Crown Point High School. He brought his new bride Arlene to the city 39 years ago to start their lives together.
“I’m proud of the city. It gets better every year. I wouldn’t ever move,” he said.
“Crown Point is a good place to live,” Arlene added.
Crown Point Mayor David Uran said the line at the four-hour long picnic, which included bounce houses for the children and a bean bag toss area for friendly games, was nonstop for more than two hours.
“We are just about out of pork,” Uran said a little more than half-way through the picnic. An entire hog was roasted for the event.
He said the picnic is a way to help promote to the community the family values atmosphere of the city.
“People get to come out of their house and meet their neighbors,” Uran said. He lauded the sponsors including NIPSCO, which underwrites a large portion of the cost of the event, and the many food vendors who provide food items either free of charge or at a discount so the city can make the picnic happen.
“Some people have come all 10 years. They bring their neighbors and their families,” Uran said. This year the city advertised the picnic on its Blackboard system which notified residents of the event. Some attended for the first time.
Amanda Benko, of Crown Point, and her children Ryder, 18 months, Mia, 3, and Shay, 5, and her brother Michael Benko and his son Bradley, 7, joined their mom Kristy Stevens, of Crown Point, for the family’s first visit to the picnic.
“I got the email alert,” Stevens said. They didn’t know about the picnic prior to the alert and thought it might be fun. They were all eating lunch first, but the kids were excited to get to the bounce houses.
“I think this if fantastic,” Stevens said of the event.
Bradley and Shay were making quick work of their meals to get the play time going.
And for his burger topped with cheese and a plop of ketchup.
“It’s good,” he said.
Carrie Napoleon is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.