TOWNSEND -- The annual police picnic for seniors has become a tradition enjoyed by public safety personnel and seniors alike. After all, who doesn't appreciate a good cookout complete with entertainment, visiting friends and the promise of a prize to take home?
The Police, Communications and Fire-EMS departments join forces to sponsor the meal, now in its 27th year. This year, the picnic for over 100 people was held June 19 in the Townsend Meeting Hall on Dudley Road.
Over the years, the event has moved from the Townsend Veterans of Foreign Wars post, to the function hall at the Congregational Church and then, for the past three years, to the room adjacent to the Senior Center.
Some of the volunteers have been part of the picnic since the earliest days. Crystal Entertainment provides much more than music. Gail Johnson was spinning the tunes and running the quizzes this year. She or her husband, Jimmy, a former reserve police officer, have been on board since the days at the V.F.W.
During a patriotic song, the diners waved the flags placed at each seat. They were led by Avis Roy, who donned the hat from her table's centerpiece and stood to conduct the room.
"The flags were my idea this year," said Police Chief Erving Marshall.
Memories were jostled by the playlist. "I just love the music," said diner Lori Lambert. She recalled seeing the Beatles twice at shows at the Boston Garden and seeing both George Harrison and Ringo Starr at other shows.
Volunteers prepared homemade salads and Officers Jim Marchand and Mark Francis manned the grill out back. They had some serious experience. Marchand has been cooking for the event since 1987.
The event was also a family event. Marchand's daughter, Kelly, works at Cherry Hill Ice Cream Too. She was there with three tubs of donated ice cream.
Local businesses donated goods for the raffle so everyone could go home with something. Stewart Florist donated the bouquet for the oldest resident, Edna Burnham, 97. She sported her Boston Post Cane pin, given to her when, as the town's oldest resident, she became the symbolic holder of the cane.
This picnic was about more than just fun and games. It was a venue where seniors could get to know the public safety personnel who might respond to an emergency call at their homes someday.
The meal is "in appreciation of you and in order to recognize those who serve you so you can recognize them," Marshall said.