By PETE FONTAINE Old Man Weather wasn't the least bit cooperative for the Rhode Island Association of Elks last Thursday, however, the morning's rain - which continued into the afternoon - didn't dampen the spirits of countless volunteers and force
Old Man Weather wasn’t the least bit cooperative for the Rhode Island Association of Elks last Thursday, however, the morning’s rain – which continued into the afternoon - didn’t dampen the spirits of countless volunteers and force postponement of the statewide group’s highly-acclaimed annual 365 Outing.
“We thought about moving it to Monday’s rain date,” Mark Eaton, the Elks immediate past state president and event chairman, began. “But with Tropical Storm Henri scheduled to hit us that day, we went ahead and held what is our association’s annual major project.”
A project, recently installed state Elks President John Carpinelli offered: “A picnic we hold for a special group of people everyone takes pride in that requires lots and lots of planning and preparation.”
Dedicated to making the event a success, Eaton receives valuable assistance from Co-Chairperson Deborah Mangina, the Exalted Ruler at Warwick-based Tri-City Elks and her colleague Maureen Sullivan who annually compile a seemingly endless invitation list.
“Deb and Maureen work in the healthcare industry,” Eaton explained. “They invite people from group homes, assisted living facilities or those who live at home with a care giver and they’re transported to the event by a number of different vehicles here to Masonic Park (in Warwick) that has been our home since 2016.”
Upon their arrival, guests are showered with gifts like multi-colored inflated guitars – which Eaton explained we have to blow up with our own equipment - as well as hats, wrist bands, sun glasses and pens.
Almost upon their arrival, most of guests choose where they’ll sit and enjoy the picnic while others scoot onto the dance floor underneath a giant permanent covering and dance to music played by Tri-City’s Mister Music Man Ron Caramante, who donates his talent and services.
Meanwhile, volunteers from the state’s 10 Elks lodges are busy preparing – and later serve - an estimated char-broiled 1,100 hot dogs and 1,200 hamburgers, 1,500 bags of potato chips and 160 pounds of potato salad, 2,000 cans of soda or bottled water and of course, chilled and cut watermelon.
When asked how and who pays for the event, Eaton smiled and replied: “All the Elks in Rhode Island!”
“We call this our 365 outing,” Eaton offered. “Three dollars and sixty five cents from Elks dues pays for the event and we also receive a Grand Lodge grant.”
He later explained that the valued event began over 30 years ago and was held at Rocky Point Amusement Park for years then took up residence at other locations, but he noted has enjoyed “a great working relationship with our friends at the Rhode Island Shriners to host it at Masonic Park.”
Some members of the Cranston-based Palestine Temple Shriners, in fact, dress in their famous clown costumers and show up at Masonic Park and in some cases make animal figures from inflated balloons but overall provide goodwill -- and super smiles -- for a special group of Rhode Island residents who have grown in numbers from 300 attendees years ago “The rain kept some people away,” said Eaton who six years ago was asked to grow the event by Leo Blanchette who lives in Warwick and is the top Elk in Rhode Island. “We’re already planning for 2022 and hopefully the sun will shine and we surpass all records and host 2000 special Rhode Island residents.” Cutlines on sheets slugged 08-23-21 1457