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The welcome sign at the family picnic

Good food, good music, good times at Mastodon Family Picnic

By Blake Sebring

October 3, 2023

As Bears and Colts fans can probably attest, it’s a pretty safe bet the Mastodon Family Picnic is a more enjoyable way to spend three hours on a Sunday afternoon than watching your favorite NFL team these days. For the second consecutive year, hundreds of members of the PFW university community—faculty, staff and their families—were greeted with sunny skies, tasty food, and incredible entertainment.

“What we’re always trying to do is thank people for what they do on our campus,” Chancellor Ron Elsenbaumer said. “I can’t think of a better way we can do it where we can invite all faculty, all staff and all their families, and give them an opportunity to enjoy themselves.”

Elsenbaumer went on to describe how the annual picnic is one way the university furthers a key pillar of its strategic plan.

“Quality of Place is an aspiration and absolutely something we are paying attention to,” he said. “I’m hoping everyone has a really good time. This fall was exceptionally good for us with our enrollment turning around after 12 years of declines. This is a great way to celebrate and thank everyone for all of the hard work they’ve been doing on our campus, and helping this institution get right-sided and positioned well for the future.”

New for this year’s gathering, Catablu’s popular BluSpoon Catering was brought in to help up the picnic’s culinary game—and they scored. BluSpoon’s outstanding take on the traditional selection of hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, salads, and coleslaw, may have only been topped by a truly exceptional dessert table, which never seemed to run out no matter how many return trips picknickers made to try out the different styles of brownies and cookies.

Those who brought their kids also didn’t have to worry much about dealing with lingering sugar rushes on the car ride home thanks to two inflatable structures called Marble Obstacle Course Rainbow Castle Combo, which along with the warm weather, helped young and old alike burn off some energy and a few calories.

A highlight again this year was the music. With some of the performers playing their third and fourth gigs in less than three days, the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra showcased their selection of funk, hip-hop, rap, and soul tunes, leaning heavily into Motown favorites. 

The orchestra’s 10 performers included three former Mastodons and Daniel Fisher, who taught for a decade in what’s now called the School of Music. He’s a director at Sweetwater, which describes him on its website as “one of the most sought-after synthesizer sound designers in the industry.” Fisher plays the keytar for the band and showed his skill at the opening of Earth Wind & Fire’s 1981 hit “Let’s Groove.”

There was a lot of foot tapping and singing along throughout the afternoon.

Once again, the bar has been raised for next year’s event.