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Mega-picnic planned

Margaret Plain hopes to break out the heavy artillery next summer to shoot the city into the picnic record books.

Margaret Plain hopes to break out the heavy artillery next summer to shoot the city into the picnic record books.

Plain, chair of the Rendezvous 2011 committee, told city council this Monday about her group's plans to hold the world's largest family picnic next year as part of the city's 150th anniversary celebrations. If all goes well, that picnic will see about 25,000 people munching sandwiches throughout the Sturgeon River valley on Aug. 28, 2011 in an attempt to get into the Guinness World Book of Records.

Now all they need is volunteers and a big starting gun.

"We're looking at the military to fire off a big shell that would echo throughout the river valley to declare the beginning and end of the picnic," Plain says.

22,257: the number to beat

The mega-picnic was one of the many ideas the committee came up with when they brainstormed ways to celebrate the city's sesquicentennial, Plain says. The committee recently paid about $8,000 to license the Guinness name for the record attempt.

The current record for a family picnic is 22,257 people, says Celine Leonard, chair of the picnic subcommittee, and was set by Portugal in 2003. The committee is aiming at 25,000, or about 42 per cent of St. Albert's population.

The Guinness group has strict rules for any record attempt, Plain adds. "Everyone who attends the picnic must bring a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a beverage, and a chair or blanket to sit on." Everyone must register for the picnic between noon and 2 p.m., with their registration witnessed and verified by an independent observer.

The committee has already invited surrounding communities to come to the picnic, Leonard says, and identified about 8,000 park-and-ride spots that could be made available. The RCMP and St. John Ambulance will handle emergencies, while St. Albert Scouts will pick up the recycling.

They've also planned a lot of entertainment. "We want to set up venues throughout the river valley from Kingswood all the way to Riel," Plain says, with themed activities in each. Lions Park will be the 'wheels' zone, for example, with plenty of antique cars and military vehicles. Kingswood will be 'youthapalooza,' full of skateboards and scavenger hunts. A fireworks show and main stage at Seven Hills have also been proposed.

They'll need about 300 volunteers to run the event, Plain says, some of which she hopes to roll-over from events like the Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games. A volunteer information night is set for this September.

It'll be tough, but not impossible, to break the record, Plain says. "They get 5,000 to10,000 people at the farmers' market sometimes," she notes. "All you need is another two of those to break the record."

It should be very entertaining even if we don't break the record, Leonard says. "It'll bring recognition to St. Albert that this is a fun place to be."

Visit or call 780-458-4630 for more on the picnic.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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