By Nicle Young | The Tennessean
For Shannon LaFrance, the 36th annual Bellevue Community Picnic at Red Caboose Park on Saturday was all about learning and having fun with the kids.
The non-denominational pastor from New Orleans moved to Bellevue last August with his wife and their 8-year-old twin sons.
“I’ve driven past this park every day,” he said with a smile. “When we heard about the picnic through Harpeth Valley School, we just decided to check it out. So far, I’ve learned a lot about what’s going on in Bellevue and gotten information on the most prominent businesses here.”
Each year, guests like LaFrance are treated to live performances as part of the picnic’s music festival. A children’s area, with rides, a rock climbing wall, inflatables and more, is always a popular draw as are the vendor booths, set up all around the perimeter of the picnic.
This year, like in so many years past, guests were treated to fresh-cut watermelon as they entered the event. But something new also waited for them at the entrance: food trucks.
According to Rod Frank, president of the picnic’s organizer, the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, they were just one of the major differences this year.
“We also have non-traditional businesses represented in our vendor booths,” he said. “You will see home-based and online businesses, which reflects the changing nature of our economy.”
Frank also said event planners decided to bring back a long time staple of the event, a silent auction, after a three-year hiatus. The ever-popular fireworks display, which was canceled in 2011 and brought back last year, was canceled again this year.
“The fireworks are a long-time tradition, and for the last few years, we’ve either had them or not had them,” Frank said. “It’s hard to find a sponsor for them.”
Despite the omission of the fireworks, Frank said he hoped there were plenty of other things for people to enjoy.
For Donna Bowlin, 65, it was all about her 3-year-old granddaughter, Izzy.
“I think our favorite thing is the bouncy house,” Bowlin said. “We’re kind of excited about the pony rides too, though.”
This year was Bowlin’s second at the annual event. Looking around the festivities, she said it reminded her that the community should come together more often.
“I think we should bring back Bellevue,” she said. “The mall and all the businesses we’ve lost over the years need to come back. We need a revitalization.”