A picnic in the park is a great way to celebrate a special occasion or meet new friends and neighbours. Outdoor picnics are also a great add-on to events such as a park stewardship day or harvest festival. Whether you intend to celebrate with a private group or host an open community-wide picnic, food helps bring people together in public spaces.
Planning a private picnic with less than 25 people attending is generally a straightforward undertaking. You can jump right in and choose your food, activities and guest list. However planning an open community picnic involves some additional steps that you need to be mindful of to ensure the safety of your event.
Here are some steps to help you plan your community picnic:
Planning and permits:
Right at the outset, determine how many people you’ll invite to your picnic and whether you need a picnic site. This will help you know whether or not you’ll need a permit. Always be sure to visit your city’s official web page to find out what types of permits are available. Here’s a general guideline.
No permit needed
If your picnic is private with less than 25 people and you are not using a designated picnic site like a picnic shelter or barbecue, you generally don’t need a permit. For example, ten friends on a blanket in the park is usually a permit-free affair.
If your picnic is not open to the public, but has 25 or more people OR if you want to reserve a designated picnic spot for your group, you likely need a permit. For example, a corporate or family gathering of 25 or more at a picnic shelter.
Special Event Permit and insurance needed
If your picnic is open to the public (anyone can attend), whether at a designated picnic site or not, you require a special event permit and insurance. For example, a community picnic organized by a park friends group requires a permit. Often times an inspection from your local public health authority is also required to ensure public safety standards are met.
Get the word out:
Once your permit has been approved, you can let your community know about the picnic.
- Create flyers and leave them at local stores, schools, churches, libraries, and community and health centres.
- Use social media such as Twitter Facebook and Instagram.
- List the event in local newspapers and newsletters, such as your local councillor’s.
- Post your event to Park People’s events page.
- Consider pairing your picnic with another event, such as children’s activities, the launch of a community garden, the last day of school, or a movie in the park.
Sponsors and donors can help cover the costs of your picnic. Be sure to give potential sponsors enough time so that their logo can be included on event flyers and advertisements. Look to local businesses near the park as prospective supporters.
Food is obviously at the heart of a successful picnic. If you are advertising your picnic as open to the public and are serving or selling food to the general public, you may be required to contact your local Public Health Authority and fill out a Temporary Food Establishment Application as part of your Special Event Permit.
Only food that is prepared in an inspected kitchen (a commercial kitchen or a community kitchen) can be served to the general public. If you are not buying prepared food or do not have access to this type of kitchen, consider encouraging community members to bring their own picnic basket of homemade food. The experience of eating together, rather than sharing food, can help you get around some permit hurdles.
There are some foods that are considered lower risk foods that would keep your application and health inspection simple.
Keep the momentum going:
A community picnic is a great way to start a local community park group or find new volunteers for an already established one. Be sure to collect people’s email addresses on the day of the picnic to follow-up with them on future park activities.Be sure to share photos from the picnic on social media. Also, use the picnic to talk to people about what other events they would like to see in the park. A movie night? Nature walk? Community garden?