Imagine a really big table — a table where all of Olympia could sit down to dinner together.
That’s the idea behind A Table for Olympia, a free community picnic happening Friday downtown. The picnic is a fundraiser for the Thurston County Food Bank, but its real purpose is to celebrate Olympia, its community and its downtown.
“It’s really about community,” said Mathias Eichler, who came up with the idea. “It’s about bringing people together and hanging out together and having a good time.”
That good time will include cake in honor of Olympia’s 150th birthday, live music, and water from the artesian well. Picnickers are asked to bring their own cups, plates, and silverware as well as food to share.
“We’re not planning the food: ‘You bring potato salad, and you bring bread,’ ” said Eichler, who owns the housewares shop Einmaleins.
“We’re hoping people bring enough food and something to share so that everyone has something.”
Participants also are asked to bring a donation of nonperishable food for the food bank.
Eichler was inspired by a similar event held in Brussels, Belgium.
“Brussels is the capital of the European Union, and I thought with Olympia also being a capital city, it would be really fitting to do a table event like that for the community of Olympia,” he said.
Councilwoman Joan Machlis said, “I thought it was a terrific idea; I thought it was very Olympia.”
Machlis is helping with the event and asked all of the city council candidates to contribute to it.
The candidates will attend, but they promise no speeches.
Of course, the table at the picnic — to be dressed with a white tablecloth and bouquets of flowers — won’t really seat all of Olympia. It will, however, seat 200.
“We’re planning one long row of tables down the street,” Eichler said. “We’ll break it up every three or four tables so you can walk through, but the idea is visually you have one long table.”
He envisions people coming and going, and hopes for 500 attendees.
“People have already called and wanted to reserve a table or a chair for money,” he said. “People have been wanting to buy T-shirts.”
A Table for the People of Brussels, which has been happening for several years, draws more than 4,000 people, who sit at a table that’s almost a mile long. “It’s really a big deal and no more than we are doing at our event,” Eichler said. “People show up and share a picnic.”
With the table running right down the middle of Washington Street during prime commuting time, A Table for Olympia aims to raise awareness of what’s happening downtown.
“We are purposely having the event between two busy streets,” Eichler said. “We didn’t go into a park or out to the Port.
“If we have the road blocked off there, people will be turning their heads and saying, ‘What’s going on? Am I missing something?’ ”