Table for Olympia community picnic becomes annual event

lpemberton@theolympian.comAugust 2, 2013 


    What: The now-anual community picnic that celebrates local food and community.

    When: 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Olympia's Fifth Avenue between Washington and Franklin streets, in front of the Capitol Theater.

    What to bring: A picnic dinner (including plates and silverware)

    More information:

When Mathias Eichler organized the first Table for Olympia event five years ago, he didn’t think it would become an annual tradition.

“In my mind, this was a flash mob,” the downtown business owner said. “This was a one-time thing.”

But the idea of closing a city block, setting up rows of tables and chairs and inviting people to bring a picnic has stuck.

Saturday’s dinner is organized by the Thurston Food System Council and is sponsored by numerous organizations including the Olympia Food Co-op, Thurston Regional Planning and the Olympia Farmers Market, among others.

“It’s a celebration of our local food system,” TJ Johnson, chairman of the Thurston Food System Council, said. “It’s not really a potluck where everything gets anonymously on a table. You’re sharing your food with other people and sharing where it came from.”

Eichler said Table for Olympia usually has a strong, neighborhood feel — similar to a block party.

“It’s really open and airy and people and pedestrians can reclaim the streets for a couple of hours,” Eichler said. “You own your city for a few hours.”

Last year’s event drew about 300 people, and featured an array of food, Johnson said.

“It was everything from ‘I just picked this tomato out of my garden’ to ‘I didn’t have much time so I swung by the pizzeria and picked up this pizza,’” he said.

This year’s event also will feature informational booths about several food organizations, local farms and sustainable food system efforts, Johnson said.

If you go: Table for Olympia, a community picnic, will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday on Fifth Avenue between Washington and Franklin streets. People are invited to bring a picnic dinner (including plates and silverware) to the event. For more information, go to

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 @Lisa_Pemberton

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