These days, even Paula Deen has to fill out paperwork to get a place at the table at Homewood Central Park. But the controversial Southern butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth cook waited too long before reserving space for, what–1,000 people? at a Sept. 16 “Picnic to End Hunger” benefit for the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, according to tonight’s business. Well, that isn’t totally fair. Deen, who will be at the Alabama Theatre that night for a 90-minute Paula Deen Live show, didn’t personally contact the park board about the event. It was one of her people. And that person didn’t return emails, and didn’t want to wait for the board to meet and vote, and didn’t exactly have any plans for where those 1,000 people might park before coming to the picnic–but if she really wants to make an appearance, the board authorized Public Service Director Berkely Squires to make the decision without them. And other business in a 30-minute meeting.
Members present: Chris Meeks, chairman, Paula Smalley, vice chairman, Keith Stansell, Tom Walker, Marjorie Trimm, Tom Blake, and Tyler Vail. Also present was council liaison Richard Laws.
Members absent: Becky Morton and Michael Murray.
Staff present: Berkley Squires, public service director, Rusty Holley, park and recreation superintendent, Dianne Rice, board secretary.
Audience attendance: 1
Approved minutes of the Aug. 7, 2014, meeting.
Director’s report: Mr. Squires announced that pool attendance this summer was a record 65,000, or a 40,000-person increase over the last regular season.
Approved three events, with some questions and discussion: Approved were an April 24-25, 2015 Relay for Life walk benefitting the American Cancer Society, with an expected attendance of 2,000; and the longstanding MS Walk, set for April 11, 2015, and benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Ala-Miss. Chapter, with set-up the Friday before and expected attendance of 900. Approved but awaiting a firm date next summer is a fundraising fish-fry dinner benefiting Reel Life International, a Christian nonprofit men’s group that somehow combines fishing trips with a ministry to orphans. The event expects 300-400 people to be eating picnic-style on the park grounds. The group was asked to set a weekday date after summer camp ended, or a weekend date.
Authorized the public services director to approve or deny any requests from the Paula Deen Picnic to End Hunger: Based on a hurried and high-handed request from a Paula Deen company to make the park available on two weeks’ notice for an estimated 1,000 people, the board voted to let Mr. Squires make the decision, if and when the company called to provide the logistic details. Mr. Holley said he thought the matter had been dropped as there was no publicity on Deen’s website about it.
There being no further business, the board adjourned, then heard and accepted an ALS dunking challenge issued a week ago from the city council. Mr. Squires and the board agreed to take the challenge at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7, at the Central Park pool, with the ice-water-filled “tump bucket” doing the honors.