Activities and freebies galore at Independence Day Picnic

This year’s annual American Community Independence Day Picnic really revealed what the American approach to hospitality and life is all about.

Relaxed, friendly, open and fun, the event held on Saturday in the beautiful baroque surroundings of the Marquis de Pombal’s Palace gardens in Oeiras was an opportunity for the American community and Portuguese guests to mingle and enjoy scores of family-orientated activities in an informal atmosphere.

There were plenty of activities for children to enjoy throughout the afternoon, including a bouncy castle and a host of games organised by Oeiras International School from egg and spoon races to potato sack jumping.

And for the more sports minded, there was the chance to practice one’s baseball swing and American football pass.

The highlight of the day came at four o’clock when thousands of red and white ‘coca cola’ balloons, each with a ‘message for the world’ attached were released into the clear summer sky.

American marines were on hand grilling hamburgers and hotdogs, staff from NATO was serving up slices of roast pork and there was gallons of Pepsi cola, Coca Cola, Sagres and Budweiser, potato crisps, snacks, chocolates and ice creams.

In addition, hundreds of freebies were given out by the various sponsors of the event including food, snacks, toiletries, toy cars, tooth brushes and even sun screen!

A great crowd puller was Pat Westheimer’s ‘Guess the number of M&Ms’ in the jar contest, and remarkably a young girl, Inês, guessed the exact number – 2688 – for the first time ever!

This year entertainment was provided by a group of red nose clowns from Operation Nariz Vermelho who sold raffle tickets for worthy children’s causes while around 30 sufferers from Parkinson’s disease and a group of children from the association Novo Futuro – an association which supports disadvantaged children and young people – were also invited.

The afternoon’s events were rounded off with speeches and a raffle prize giving in which Hard Rock Café vouchers, Swatch watches and a signed photograph and football from Luís Figo were some of the more notable prizes.

The United States Ambassador to Portugal, Allan Katz, who took to the stage, said that as the ambassador to Portugal he was the “luckiest man in the world to have the best job” and wished everyone a happy Independence Day. Chris Graeme