Teams bringing together active-duty soldiers and civilians faced off in contests from softball to a tug-of-war in Sumner Saturday to forge community bonds.
The competition between teams representing the East Pierce County cities of Puyallup and Sumner was friendly but serious.
Spc. Edward Curtin was upbeat, while wiping crumbs off his face after his Puyallup team lost in a rhubarb pie- and scone-eating contest.
“It was fun,” said Curtin, 22, who turned out with his wife and 18-month-old son. “My family enjoyed it,” the Spanaway resident said.
About 200 people attended the first Great American Picnic, held at the Daffodil Valley Sports Complex.
Each team was 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 Expeditionary Sustainment Command with Sumner.
The Sumner team won seven out of nine events, including basketball, soccer, softball and sack races. The Puyallup team captured the three-legged race competition and water balloon toss.
“It was a healthy competition,” said Col. Doug McBride, of the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, which was elevated from a brigade last week.
McBride, a 47-year-old Tacoma resident, said the picnic was a great way to create community bonds between soldiers and civilians.
While enjoying “the thrill of victory,” McBride said there were no real losers in this competition.
After his 8-year-old son won one of the three-legged races coordinated by Daffodil Festival princesses, Maj. Hayden Joseph said the event gave soldiers a hometown feeling.
“A little bit of community involvement keeps the soldiers grounded,” said Joseph, 43, who lives in Puyallup but was on the Sumner team.
The inaugural event came about 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.
The picnic raised money for 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.
Organizers were already talking Saturday about holding the event next year. Sumner city spokeswoman Carmen Palmer said “there’s room to bring a lot more people out.”