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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Christopher Billingsley Jr., 6, gets his face painted by volunteer Gabby Asher during Monday's annual Labor Day picnic at Headwaters Park.

  • Alex VanDonselaar, left, and Terry Gardiner of International Brotherhood of Electrical Works Local 1393 give Austyn Rogers, 9, a power-line demonstration. 

  • UAW volunteer Roxanna Murray calls out bingo numbers Monday afternoon.

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette About 6,000 people came out for free food, games and entertainment at Monday’s annual Labor Day picnic at Headwaters Park.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018 1:00 am

6,000 ignore heat to celebrate unions

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

A scorching September afternoon didn't deter about 6,000 people from attending Monday's annual Labor Day picnic at Headwaters Park. 

Shortly before 11 a.m., a crowd of revelers began to line up outside Headwaters Park for an afternoon of activities, games and free food. 

“I thought the event went extremely well; it's always well attended,” Geoff Paddock, executive director of Headwaters Park said Monday. “It was an opportunity for organized labor to give something back to the community, and I think for those of us in public service to try to give them a pat on the back for all they've done for this country.” 

The picnic has been held annually for 36 years and this year marked its 10th at Headwaters, Paddock said. 

As in years past, Monday's picnic was sponsored by a collection of labor organizations and unions, including the Northeast Indiana Building Trades Council. Other organizations represented including United Auto Workers Local 229, as well as the local bricklayers and Teamsters unions, among many others. 

Faces were painted, games were played and the sound of a rousing game of Bingo echoed through the pavilion as picnickers snacked on hot dogs, chili and soft drinks. The heat appeared to detract little from the day's celebration, which also included performances from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and speeches from about a dozen local and statewide politicians and candidates. 

“It's just a lot to come out and see how enjoyable it is,” said Mark Andrews, a retired Fort Wayne auto worker. “For me, being a retired UAW guy, it means a lot. It's not the tangible things. It's great to have vacations and time off, but for me it was always about respect.” 

Andrews, 61, said it's great that the picnic continues every year. There are always new faces to meet and new causes being promoted, he said. 

“You've got new organizations, community groups and activists coming out,” Andrews said. “It's not just union people.”