Hundreds turn out for Independence Day picnic

18th annual event offers patriotic music, tribute to veterans

Hundreds turned out Monday for the 18th annual Fourth of July community picnic in Lions Wayside Park in downtown Pleasanton.

With more than 700 hot dogs given out free by The Pleasanton Lions Club and more than 200 wooden tokens given to youngsters to trade for ice cream cones at Meadowlark Dairy, picnic organizers Jerry Long and Ron Sutton estimated that well over 1,000 attended this year's event.

They crowded their beach chairs under canopies and shade trees although, with temperatures in the low 90s, it was one of the coolest celebrations in years.

Allan Freebody, whose roots go back to the early settlers of Australia and who became a U.S. citizen two years ago, opened the program with the "Pledge of Allegiance."

Following were Sarah Keene, who will turn 18 just before Election Day and Katja Zengel, who took the pledge to activate their birthright citizenship by registering to vote on their 18th birthdays.

Called "Celebrating Freedom and its Evolution since the Revolution, the event attracts hundreds every year. Sutton said it's held mid-day so that those participating still have time to get home for their family barbecues and later to the Fairgrounds for its annual fireworks celebration.

Ken McDonald led the picnic celebration, which included "Happy Birthday to USA" by Mildred and Patty Hill, a patriotic singalong to music by the Pleasanton Community Concert Band.

Another theme this year was the evolution of music in America, with examples provided by the band, under the direction of Bob Williams, who also is a music historian. This exploration was guided by speaker Ann Collins, who provided insights into the hidden messages in some Negro spirituals (as they were then called). Vocalist Pat Bosma, who played Lady Liberty at the start, switched later to sing favorite American melodies.

Before his welcoming remarks, Mayor Jerry Thorne was honored at his introduction in a special tribute by the band. It played a portion of his favorite marching music from when he was the drum major for the University of Tennessee's marching band.

The band also honored current and former military members, playing the familiar service songs of each military branch while those veterans stood to be recognized by applause.

McDonald, assisted by Les Duman, then honored Bob Butler and Margene Gerton Rivara as this year's recipients of the Ed Kinney Community Patriot Awards.

Butler was recognized for his years of community service, including two terms as mayor of Pleasanton, and Rivara for her work in city arts and providing housing for seniors.

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