Crowd expected at veterans' picnic
At least 2,000 people are expected to attend the annual Bradford County Veterans Appreciation Day picnic, which will take place on Sunday, July 21 on the grounds of the Wysox Fire Hall, organizers said.
Organizers said they are celebrating the picnic's 25th anniversary this year. At the picnic's opening ceremony, the four individuals who started the picnic - Joseph Larnard, Merle Young, Steve Fasset, and Don McNeal - will be honored. McNeal, who lives in the Valley area, is the only one of the four who is still alive.
The theme of the picnic this year is the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.
The picnic is a way to honor veterans and to show appreciation for their sacrifices, which allow Americans the freedoms they enjoy every day, according to a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that has been issued for the picnic's 25th anniversary.
At the picnic, all veterans with ID eat free, and they also receive a free T-shirt and hat, according to the committee that organizes the picnic.
Those members of the public who are not veterans are also invited to the picnic, and they donate however much they wish for their meal.
Members of the public and veterans, no matter where they come from, are invited to picnic, the committee members said. They do not have to be from Bradford County, the committee said.
The opening ceremony for the picnic is at noon. Immediately after the opening ceremony, which is expected to last 15 to 20 minutes, the food will be begin to be served. The serving of food will then continue until the picnic ends, which will occur around 3 p.m., said Diane Elliott, a member of the committee.
Among the live entertainment that has been lined up for the picnic are local vocal group Pro Musica, the Wyalusing Swing Choir, and singer Andy Boardman.
There will also be a Chinese auction at the picnic, with at least 100 items, to help cover the cost of the picnic, Elliott said.
In addition, there will be displays at the event of military memorabilia.
"We hope the veterans enjoy the program and the picnic, and accept our thanks to them for serving our country," committee member Bob Crandall said.
The meal at the picnic will include hot dogs, hamburgers, Italian sausage, potato salad, macaroni salad, potato chips, watermelon, and an array of desserts.
The picnic is put on entirely by volunteers, who organize it, make food and baked goods, and serve the meal, according to the committee.
"Dignitaries are always invited to help serve the meal, (or to volunteer) wherever else they are needed," Elliott said. Among those who have served food at the picnic in the past are state Rep. Tina Pickett, local congressmen, and Bradford County commissioners.
Some of the veterans who attend are bused in from locations such as the Bradford County Manor and V.A. hospitals in Bath, N.Y., and Wilkes-Barre.
The picnic takes place under huge, 80-foot by 180-foot tent, according to the members of the committee.
The main founder of the picnic was Larnard, who was a local veteran of the Vietnam War, Crandall said.
"When (Larnard) would go to the Wilkes-Barre VA for his treatment, he would see veterans who were confined at the hospital with not much really for them to do," Crandall has said. "So he, along with some other Vietnam Veterans, decided to hold the first picnic (in Bradford County) and to bring veterans from the Wilkes-Barre VA up to the picnic."
The first year, there were 17 or 18 veterans from the Wilkes-Barre VA Hospital, Crandall has said. "I believe the total attendance that year was 50 people."
The picnic has been held every year since then, except 2011, when there were problems related to flooding and a tornado that damaged Larnard-Hornbrook County Park, he said.
Larnard-Hornbrook County Park is where the picnic used to be held.
Last year, the picnic was moved to the Wysox Fire Hall's grounds, which can accommodate more people and has better facilities to accommodate older or disabled veterans, Crandall said.
The citation from the House of Representatives not only recognizes the history and purpose of the picnic, but designates July 21 as Veterans Appreciation Day throughout Pennsylvania.
Businesses and organizations also donate food for the picnic, Crandall said.
The large majority of committee that organizes the picnic are veterans or spouses of veterans, he said.
The Wysox Fire Hall is located on Lake Road in Wysox.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: email@example.com.