Labor picnic welcomes the community

The Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council gave back to the community Monday, hosting another Labor Day picnic with free food, music and inflatable rides for children at Tumwater Falls Park.

Labor Council president Bob Guenther said the event, which has been happening every year since about 1990, typically alternates between Thurston County and Lewis County. Last year it was held in Centralia and attracted about 1,200 people, he said.

About 200 were in attendance by noon Monday, although they were prepared to serve 1,100 meals, Guenther said.

“People come and go at their leisure,” he said, “and everyone is welcome.”

The picnic also typically attracts those running for elected office.

Local candidate signs were prominently displayed and incumbent Thurston County Assessor Steven Drew was among the early speakers at the event. He is being challenged by Carol Person.

“We try not to make it an avalanche of political speaking,” Guenther said.

That probably explains the appearance of Citizens Band of Olympia, which performed, among several songs Monday, “Solidarity Forever,” a historic anthem to the labor movement.

“For the union makes us strong,” the trio sang.

Guenther retired from working at the Centralia power plant, better known today as TransAlta. In addition to serving as Labor Council president, he handles government affairs for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77. Guenther, too, sits on a board that is helping to open the industrial park at TransAlta in Lewis County.

That site recently missed out on attracting a manufacturing plant for the high-performance electric car maker Tesla, he said.

Meanwhile, Rodney O’Neill of Barb’s BBQ & Catering was serving up pulled pork, all-beef hot dogs and vinaigrette salad. He said that he had already gone through 150 servings of pulled pork by midday Monday. It was his third time catering the Labor Day picnic, he said.

O’Neill’s food truck can be found parked at State Avenue and Adams Street on Monday through Thursday and at the Artesian Commons — the park at the artesian well in downtown Olympia — Friday and Saturday nights.