Toya Stewart-Downey Mille Lacs Band Member
This year marked the 19th annual end-of-the-school-year and community celebration for urban Band members.
Though it was a gray and rainy day, it didn’t keep families away from the burgers, brats and other picnic food. Nearly 120 people — families and volunteers alike — showed up with umbrellas and rain gear to partake in the event.
One of the highlights of the event was the tour of the two fire trucks that represented both the City of Minneapolis and the City of New Brighton. Two Native American police officers from the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd precinct volunteered, as did staff and Metro Transit officers.
Barb Benjamin-Robertson, program administrator for the urban office, said those who attended had a great time participating in the games, interacting with the police and firefighters, and enjoying each other’s company.
“The kids enjoyed their creative zany balloon twists and the face-painting, even though by the end of the picnic, it was a paint and rain mix,” she said.
Barb, who began working for the Band in 1998, said her vision was to energize the urban office by developing programming and new ways to celebrate the urban community. That’s how the annual picnic and celebration came to be.
“In 1999 we had our first one at Brackett Park,” said Barb. “We had a few hundred people show up and we had more games...just fun stuff!”
This year’s event was also held at Brackett as it has been for many years.
Barb said she hopes the impact of the event is to show people that the urban office strives to serve them as best they can. And that it helps connect the community by providing families with summer fun and a good time.
“The best gathering part was the comradeship,” she said. “And that we could make it through the end of the picnic with the rain showers.”
The picnic and celebration is always greatly anticipated by the community, she said.
A special thanks goes out to Barb’s family, who always help “chef it up” at the grills and make sure that the food is abundant. She also wants to thank the volunteers who helped out in spite of the wet weather.