More than 3,000 military personnel and their families found picnic fare and fun at the Salute to our Nation's Defenders' Picnic at Centennial Park on July 13. The annual picnic is provided by the Top of Utah Military Affairs Committee (TOUMAC), a committee shared between the Davis Chamber of Commerce and the Ogden/Weber Chamber of Commerce. The event receives strong financial support from key sponsors and the strong support of many volunteers.
"I absolutely love this," said Brig. Gen. H. Brent Baker Sr., Ogden Air Logistics Complex commander, at the picnic. "This is one of the best things about command is to get to come out and spend time with the Airmen and their families. You just can't beat this and what the community has done is marvelous. I am very impressed. And it wasn't unexpected. Hill has always had a reputation for great community involvement -- it's just a fulfillment of what I already knew."
"It looks like we have a tremendous turn-out and the weather couldn't be more beautiful," said Tom Guinney, with Gastronomy Inc., a major sponsor and preparer of the meal. "It's another great, exciting event. It's terrific."
As one of those involved in the creation of the project some 11 years ago, Guinney said these events have been an extraordinary journey. "It's been an interesting 11 years for all of us in the history of the country, hasn't it?"
Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs thanked him and said, "Who would have thought it would turn out this way? But for you to thank these people in this way, you've done an awful lot."
Guinney characterized the event as something his employees enjoy. "It's just a hoot for our staff to come out and show their appreciation for the servicemen. I think you can see the smiles on their faces."
Downs said that the annual event is a great way to show appreciation for the sacrifices of military members and their families. "Through the years it's been a good reminder of the family side of the sacrifice that's made to see the spouses, and the hundreds of children, actually thousands of children, that are part of the sacrifice that goes into defending our nation."
As the band, Red Shot Pony, entertained the crowd, kids played on inflatables and colorful kites flew high above the crowd to the east.
To complement the picnic fare, watermelon slices and strawberry short cake awaited attendees and refreshment stands were set up near the pavilion.
Chief Master Sgt. Mark Batzer, 388th Fighter Wing command chief, said, "This is a great event for all Team Hill Airmen. It demonstrates the support that the local community provides for us which is so vitally important and shows their appreciation for the sacrifices we've all made. They've made a great afternoon for everyone with fantastic food, entertainment and games for the kids."
Members of the community present included Layton Mayor Steve Curtis, cleaning cloth in hand sprucing up tables. Curtis explained, "The servicemen are my heroes. I really just appreciate them. That's why I am here."
Master Sgt. Daniel Hazel, 75th Security Forces Squadron, said he thought the picnic was great. His favorite part so far, he said, was the food as he sat surrounded by his wife and kids as they dug into the beef brisket and salad.
Lt. Col. Patrick Burke, Munitions Sustainment director under the Armament Directorate in the Life Cycle Management Center, said his family were really enjoying the event. "We're really thankful to the Utah community for sponsoring this," he said as two of his kids played on a nearby inflatable as he and his wife watched them.
Barbara Riddle, chairwoman of the organizing committee for the event and a member of the TOUMAC, executive committee said, "Quality of life is a major focus for the Top of Utah military Affairs Committee and this annual Salute Picnic provides an incredibly rewarding experience as we pay tribute to our troops and military. We had a base support committee led by Capt. Michael Broderick with the 388th who did an outstanding job getting the word out this year, which led to record attendance."
After the event, Riddle said, "The weather held out until 6:45 p.m. When the winds kicked up before a rain squall everyone moved quickly to retrieve flags, deflate the inflatables and break down the tablesand chairs but this was well after food service ended at 6:15 p.m."
Bob Ekstrom, also of the TOUMAC Executive Committee and organizing committee), said, "This is definitely the largest picnic in our 11 year history and would not have been possible without our sponsors and over 100 volunteers."
Brian Garrett, director of military affairs with Zions Bank, a major event sponsor, and current chairman of the TOUMAC Executive Committee praised the cooperation between many of the community for the event, including his corresponding counterpart and sponsor from America First. "I think the greatest experience is the whole community concept, watching people from all over the community join us. It is really neat to see all of the different companies come together, even those that compete in the same marketplace, come together and decide to work together for the good of serving our military."
Jackie Lalor, of Century Link, said the company supported the picnic to show the military that they are interested in them. "We support you."