July 18, 2019

Unity Picnic embraces diversity in community - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Unity Picnic embraces diversity in community

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Posted: Monday, July 1, 2019 4:11 pm

Organizers estimate that 160 people or more attended the second annual Unity Picnic sponsored by MAST (Madison Area Stands Together) at Northwest Park on Thursday evening.

"The goal is to bring parts of the community together in a casual, family-friendly way," said Court Weck, one of the event organizers. "It just makes us a stronger community."

To make the event as inclusive as possible, promotional materials were printed in both English and Spanish, and dishes were labeled so that individuals with food preferences could identify appropriate options.

"I don't think it's a big deal to label your food. To me, that's just being a generous host," Weck said.

The promotional materials acknowledged the growing diversity in Madison, which organizers believe makes the community more vibrant. Labeling not only recognizes religious and cultural differences but also addressed safety concerns, such as food allergies.

"I certainly don't want anyone to have an allergic reaction at our picnic," Weck said.

In addition to serving brats with a diverse array of side dishes, the picnic offered games, face painting, storytime with children's librarian Lisa Martin, and music by CC Graham. Bikes, bike helmet and gift cards were also given away.

"Every kid's bike comes with a helmet," Weck said.

Attendance exceeded expectations. Last year, approximately 110 attended the Unity Picnic, and organizers had to make runs to the grocery story to feed everyone. This year, organizers planned for 150 and ran out of buns near the end.

While MAST members donated most of the food, those who attended could provide a dish, too. Weck said that at community potlucks, people often like to share their favorite dishes.

"Food is family. Food is friends," Weck said.

With the success of the event, organizers are already talking about next year. They would welcome the help and support of other individuals and organizations in the community.

MAST is a nonpartisan group that strives to empower people to open dialogue and effect positive change in the community, state and country. The groups meets at 11 a.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month in the meeting room at the Madison Public Library.

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