Good Times All Around at the Community BBQ!
Two years of COVID-19 isolation has taught us that we desperately need the company of others. United Way of King County and Doug Baldwin hosted our first Annual Community BBQ on Saturday with hopes of bringing people together for a day of food, fun and festivities—knowing that we’re still grappling with the effects of being apart for so long.
Yet, as we’ve watched other attempts at returning to normalcy often go awry—from airline altercations at 30,000 feet, to melees at parks and parties, shootings on downtown streets—we knew that our outdoor event wouldn’t follow that trend. We understood people longed for an opportunity, as Baldwin put it, to simply be among one another as a community. So, we brought them together: families and strangers, people of all walks of life, all ages, backgrounds, genders, ethnicities at Renton Memorial Stadium with no visible police presence and no agenda—to enjoy some good food and the company of each other.
Aside from a few folks perturbed that they didn’t get an autograph from former Seahawks great Baldwin, it was all fun, no drama.
For four hours, children (including some born during the COVID pandemic) draped the stadium field. People of all ages caught passes from Baldwin, played games and slid down the inflatables. Folks stuffed their faces with cotton candy, popcorn and BBQ until some vendors were forced to post “Sold Out” signs. People rocked to the pulsating beats of the colorful Washington Diamonds Drill Team & Drumline. They imitated the steps of the Renton High School Black Student Union Dance Team.
At a time when our nation seems wrought with polarization, our Annual Community BBQ was everything Baldwin and United Way envisioned it would be—a really good time.
“People showed up and were enthusiastic and I saw a lot of joy; that’s what really moved me,” said United Way President & CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. “I’m incredibly pleased that United Way and Doug Baldwin hosted a community BBQ, and we very much look forward to continuing to do so on an annual basis. The enthusiasm to be reconnecting and to see joy on people’s faces is something I have not seen a lot of during the last two and a half years.”
And though Baldwin is still well known for his wide receiving prowess with the Seahawks (the convoy of autograph seekers that formed each time he stood in one place for a few moments proved that on Saturday), he has become one of pro sports most visible figures in the community post playing days. Baldwin was born and raised in the Florida Panhandle, but he has embraced the city of Renton as his own, launching a business venture and a community center there as well.
Baldwin has a pulse on what coalesces people in Washington state’s 10th-largest city, knowing that Saturday’s BBQ was just what it needed to lift locals’ spirits.
“We’ve been isolated and separated for a long time because of the pandemic,” Baldwin told Fox 13 News at the event. “We’ve also seen things happen in our community that has been divisive in some ways. When I was growing up, a BBQ was always a chance to bring our family and friends and community together.”
McHenry agreed, “Doug talks about love, leading with love, serving with love,” he said. “This is important work, and we want to do it with love.”
A special thanks to all the sponsors, vendors, stadium crew, volunteers and staff who helped make the BBQ a success. United Way has already begun exploring the venue and festivities for next year’s Annual Community BBQ, and we will make sure it is just as exciting as Saturday. Keep checking here to learn more!