Friendly competition is bringing two East Pierce County cities together on Saturday to support active-duty soldiers.
Sumner will host the first Great American Picnic, where the city’s various organizations and residents will be pitted against groups from neighboring Puyallup to raise money for a military nonprofit.
Competitions will feature team sports, including volleyball, basketball and softball, as well as traditional picnic games such as tug-of-war and a three-legged race.
Event winners will get community-centered ribbons — yellow representing Puyallup’s daffodils and red representing Sumner’s rhubarb.
“I just hope people come out and cheer for their city,” said Sumner city spokeswoman Carmen Palmer.
The inaugural event was born after Shelly Schlumpf, CEO of the Puyallup/Sumner Chamber of Commerce, learned about similar competitions between the two cities dating back more than 100 years.
That competitive spirit resulted in other recent fundraising competitions between the two communities. Both Palmer and Schlumpf saw the picnic as a similar opportunity to jump start a new tradition.
“This is going to be a hoot,” Schlumpf said.
The picnic is also an attempt to connect residents with the area’s military, Palmer said.
The event will include several team sports for participants high school age and older, as well as all-ages field events coordinated by Daffodil Festival princesses.
Each community’s team will be made up of city officials, community members and partner units from Joint Base Lewis-McChord — the 2nd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division with Puyallup and the 593rd Sustainment Brigade with Sumner. All proceeds benefit the cities’ sub-chapter of the Association of the United States Army, which fosters public support for Army members and organizes send-off and welcome-home events for deployed soldiers.
One competition based on East Pierce’s roots is an eating contest: Both cities will race to see who can scarf more Sumner rhubarb pie and Puyallup scones.
Organizers recruited a supplier from neutral territory — the Orting Bakery — to bake minipies and scones that are the same size, to keep it fair.
“I think Sumner has an advantage on that one,” Palmer said laughing. “Scones can sometimes be dry.”
Pierce County Council member Joyce McDonald will be a guest umpire.
Puyallup City Council member Tom Swanson, who has helped with picnic planning, said the event will foster a sense of community between longtime sister cities that have “grown up together.”
But, he said, the bigger goal is to support active-duty troops and create a social atmosphere for civilian communities to get to know them better.
The event was planned quickly, and organizers have already identified ways to improve it, Swanson said. But he said he’s looking forward to a day of friendly rivalry — and beating Sumner, of course.
“This is something we really want to build into a tradition,” Swanson said. “We can never have too much community.”