REDINGTON SHORES — The second Saturday of October is a special date for residents of Redington Shores. That’s the day of the Town Picnic. Held in Constitution Park, the picnic features plenty of food and a good time for all ages, on a usually sunny, pleasant day. It’s a popular event, typically drawing more than 400 people.
“A lot of people plan their vacations and time around our picnic,” Mayor Mary Beth Henderson said at the June 10 commission meeting.
But this year, faced with the new reality of COVID-19, Henderson told commission members, attending the meeting by Zoom, “It’s not going to be able to happen. We need to discuss options.”
The picnic would be killed by the coronavirus, along with the recently canceled Fourth of July fireworks. To save it, she said, “we have to do something different,” a drastic makeover into a doable form.
Henderson said she had an idea to keep the picnic alive.
If the Town Picnic crowd can’t gather safely in Constitution Park with social distancing requirements, “we’ll bring the picnic to them,” the mayor said.
Her idea: hire food trucks, send them out to the neighborhoods, “and have a drive-thru picnic.” She said one food truck could have hamburgers and hot dogs (wrapped), the next truck would have beverages, and the next desserts, such as ice cream and sundaes.
“It’s something different,” Henderson said, “but we don’t want it to go away.”
Commissioner Michael Robinson said he liked the reinvented Town Picnic.
“This has the advantage of doing something different, and sending a message to the town. People are frustrated. They have cabin fever. The fireworks have been canceled. But this tells them ‘Everything is not over.’ We’re doing something nice for the residents. It’s a good thing.”
Robinson asked Henderson about the cost of the food truck idea, and whether the town can afford it. She said money is available from the picnic fund and from the canceled fireworks display.
“This cost will come in way under the money we have available,” Henderson said.
Commissioner Jeff Neal said another option would be to move the picnic to February.
But Commissioner Jennie Blackburn said if the virus keeps going in wave after wave “February will not be any better. I’m for keeping it in October.”
Henderson agreed. “We don’t know what February will hold. Is this our new normal?”
Adding to the drive-thru picnic idea, Blackburn said goodie bags could be handed out.
“Everybody could be in their front yards,” said Town Clerk Mary Palmer.
Henderson said later that Kenny Later, a local musician, has agreed to play and donate his time.
“You might be the first town to have a drive-thru picnic,” said Town Attorney James Denhardt.
Henderson said, “Now that you’re thinking about doing it,” she would bring back more information for discussion at the next workshop.
Securing property ordinance questioned
The commission agreed to table an ordinance requiring residents to secure or bring inside their outdoor property while they are out of town.
They had earlier appeared likely to approve the ordinance, and a motion to do that, with deletion of a “140 mile per hour winds” provision, was made by Commissioner Neal.
Henderson said the law is needed even for smaller storms.
“During the recent storm that passed through the Gulf, stuff was blowing all over,” she said.
Neal said the typical summer thunderstorms that come every day “blow things around. If you’re leaving town, you need to secure your stuff before you go.”
“I agree,” said Robinson, joined by Commissioner Pat Drumm.
Then, a resident questioned several provisions in the proposed law, particularly the maximum penalty for violators — a $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail for first-time offenders, with the fine rising to $1,000 maximum for a second offense.
Resident Carol Muszik read what the ordinance said about the necessity to bring property inside or to tie it down. Then she read the penalty for violation.
She wanted to know if she or anyone else who goes on vacation and does not bring everything inside or tie it down with a rope, regardless of the weather, are subject to 60 days in jail?
The commissioners were silent. Attorney Denhardt said, “That is the maximum penalty. As a practical matter, the county courts do not put people in jail for up to 60 days, and the special magistrate does not have the authority to put people in jail.”
Muszik said a vindictive neighbor could charge someone under the law if a cushion blew on their property.
“Why would you have a 60-day jail sentence in there if you’re not going to enforce it?”
“You want the law to have some teeth in it, but I’m fine if you want to take that out,” Denhardt said.
Henderson said she was fine with taking the jail penalty out.
But Police Chief Richard Swann said, “An ordinance without consequences is basically worthless.”
“I think for a serial offender, we should leave it in there,” said Blackburn.
Drumm said, “It ought to be left in there.”
Robinson, who originally proposed the ordinance, did not comment on the penalty, but raised a concern that the ordinance only addresses absent owners, whereas it should apply to everyone, whether they are at home or away.
“I’m not sure at this point if I’m ready to move forward with this,” he said.
That prompted the commission to forgo further discussion, and agree that Robinson should meet with Denhardt to tweak the ordinance.
“So, we’ll table it and tweak it,” Henderson said.