This story was originally published in the Fall 2010 issue of Harker Quarterly
In our summer issue, we told the story of the Harker Alumni & Family Picnic. Now, as it fast approaches, we’d like to share a few more stories, especially from this past decade.
After surviving the legendary “FantaSea 2000” (yes, the picnic where the wet weather lived up to the theme), we forged on to plan our next springtime picnic, the 50th anniversary “Harker Rocks! Fifty Years of Fun!” Poodle skirts and jukeboxes were the order of the day, along with giant 45 records, Curbside Crazies on roller skates, Elvis impersonators and good old rock ‘n’ roll. Christine and John Davis brought a collection of classic cars to create our own Mel’s Drive-In around a huge tent in the center of Rosenthal Field, and the scene was set. It was one of our most rockin’ celebrations ever!
A 50th-anniversary party takes a lot of planning, and no volunteer worked harder than the great Dede Ogami, the queen of all things auction, a publications perfectionist and a dear friend. During the preparations for “Harker Rocks!” she would always joke, “I wish I were in Paris!” She and her good buddy, auction co-chair Kim Pellissier, even left a message the night before the picnic, simply stating, “Gone to Paris!” So, since we’ve always gone to great lengths to keep our volunteers happy, we named our 2002 event “Picnic in Paris – La Fête Fantastique!” We were all able to bask in the glow of Ogami’s favorite destination – “Rue de Harker”! We do what we “can-can”!
In 2003 we were met with more fun and new challenges. This was the first time in history that we produced two family picnics in one year. The first one began simply enough. During “Picnic in Paris” setup week, we noticed a windmill from the student production of “Oklahoma!” on the gym stage, and someone said, “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” Of course, that reminded us of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,’’ and the rest is, well, history. “The Wonderful Picnic of Oz … There’s No Place Like Harker” was born. Everyone got in the spirit of the day – emerald green wigs and all! Following the “yellow brick road” were Harker parents Candy Carr as the Tin Man, Janet Rohrer as the Scarecrow and Melody Moyer as the not-so-cowardly Lion (costumes courtesy of our super seamstresses, Pellissier and Alice Schwartz). Even Howard Nichols, our beloved school president, dressed as the Wizard himself. It was a delight for munchkins of all ages and plenty of picnicking for one year!
As Harker expanded, so did our special events. The first Harker Fashion Show was on the horizon, and homecoming was a welcome addition for our budding upper school as well as for the entire Harker community. It was decision time. Moving the family picnic back to the fall seemed like the best thing to do, but could we pull it off that same year? We sat down with our dedicated, hard-working, fun-loving, absolutely wonderful committee and asked that question. They said, “YES!” So, in a matter of just a few months, without missing a beat, they orchestrated the sweetest picnic ever. “Once Upon a Picnic … And They Lived ‘Harkerly’ Ever After!” was its own fairytale, and storybook perfect!
After such a busy year, we decided to kick back and enjoy the tropics in our 2004 “Picnic in Paradise … A Tropical Isle, Harker Style!” Everyone sported a by now traditional picnic T-shirt and was welcomed by steel drums, tropical birds and flower leis flown in by Kelly Delepine and family. Such fun! Then, in 2005, we really decided to “chill” with one of our favorite picnics of all time, the “Polar Picnic … Everything’s Cool at The Harker School!” Snow machines and ice sculptures helped set the scene for a day of frozen fun.
The addition of Co-Co Crossing brought us everything chocolate, including our favorite San Jose Chocolate Fountains. Even our new T-shirt sponsor, the Ammatuna family’s I ❤ Yogurt shop, served delicious chocolate flavors. It was a yummy day for all!
By 2006 we were ready for adventure, but little did we know that the real adventure was just beginning. Our resident Aussie, Vanessa Bullman, always had fun stories to tell about her native country, and we were hooked. We would bring Australia to Harker with “Picnic Down Under … An Awesome Aussie Adventure!” but not without a little research. Veteran picnic volunteers Nancy Claunch and Melody Moyer and I traveled to Sydney and surrounding areas to gather lots of ideas (and souvenirs) for our Boomerang Gang of volunteers. What a trip! Waiting for us back home was our delightful “decorations diva,” Debbie Buss, who, in her quest to design Ayers Rock for the auction area, created a mine’s worth of paper rocks that have gained more picnic miles than a trip to Australia itself! (Be sure to look for them this year in their fourth reincarnation). But what was the real adventure? Moving the entire picnic to the Blackford campus!
In 2007, we packed up the “wagons” for our “Blackford or Bust! Pioneer Picnic … Harker Heads West!” Nichols Hall was being built on the site of many a family picnic at the Saratoga campus, which was even more fitting than you might know. Former school president Howard Nichols was an avid scholar on all things related to Harker family picnics. He knew and loved its history better than anyone. Whether it was riding across that field on a horse to delight the children for a western theme, or meticulously helping set up the games with his trusty tape measure in hand, Nichols’ presence was always treasured. So it seems especially fitting that this 60th family picnic is being held on his birthday, Oct. 10. We know he would be proud. Happy birthday, all!