Go Big and Go Gnome took home 'Best in Show' at Saturday's Competitive Winter Picnicking event (Scott Lynch)
Feb 7, 2022
Competitive Winter Picnicking is the real Winter Olympics we didn’t know we needed
Twelve teams, freezing weather, Fort Greene Park, glory all around
It was 28 degrees when I checked my phone at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, and about 50 of us had been hanging out in Fort Greene Park since noon. Almost everyone was dressed in some sort of themed costume or outlandish party gear, or, in a few cases, in barely any clothes at all. Did I mention it was cold? Fucking freezing. Competitive Winter Picnicking is not for the faint of heart.
The fourth annual event drew 12 teams to the park’s picnic area near DeKalb Avenue, each with a different theme, a crazy game for everyone to play, food to share, and ample alcohol to pass around. All were ostensibly vying for one of the cash prizes and gnarly handmade trophies but really, the “competition” is more performance art than anything else, and the point is to gather, meet new people, see old friends, and do something ridiculous to break up the monotony of our second pandemic winter.
Competitive Winter Picnicking was organized by Shadow Traffic, which co-runner Jacklyn Atkinson told us is dedicated to “creating interstitial spaces for gathering in the urban landscape, and opportunities for people to make weird shit together.”
Here’s how the completely fake sport works: Each team is assigned a picnic area and throughout the four-hour party period, volunteer judges make the rounds, evaluating each crew on intangibles like creative energy, team exuberance, and how deeply a theme is carried through to the food and booze offerings. Bribery, in the form of things like shoulder rubs and special treats, is encouraged. And, of course, all participants sample the goods of all the other participants.
Akiva Leffert, who lives in Park Slope, explained the concept of his Wheel of S’mortune team—a popular table, thanks in part to the roaring fire pit: “You spin the wheel, whatever ingredients you get, you make into a s’more. That’s your fortune. That’s your s’more.”
Leffert and his team claimed to be unfazed by the frigid conditions. “I’m from New England,” he said, “and this sort of cold and suffering, that’s what we’re all about. This is my first Winter Picnicking event, but it’s been dismal for months and this seemed like a fun thing to do. I don’t think we’re going to win, but I know we’re going to eat s’mores and it’s going to be great.”
Other teams included Go Big and Go Gnome, which won the $200 Best In Show grand prize thanks in part to their elaborate table setting, featuring ceramicware from a defunct Harry-Potter-themed pasta restaurant in Williamsburg. The Meataverse team starred a guy dressed as “Meat Zuckerberg,” and a crew who the judges honored with the “Least Amount Of Clothing Worn” awards.
Team Happy Hour/Sad Hour alternated between the two themes of their name throughout the day, serving what would prove to win Bestest Picnic Drink during the former—spiked (or not) hot chocolate festooned with the likes of mini cheeseburgers, pizza bagels, funfetti muffins, and rainbow goldfish—and a repast that included raw onion, burnt toast, cough drops, and unsalted saltines during the latter.
The YakuZA team hauled in an actual working pizza oven, team Pickle-Nic squirted shots and picklebacks into the mouths of passersby, and team Hell on Earth showed us all pretty much exactly that, especially when one of their members, dressed as a poodle, pooped out brownies from the rear of his costume.
On a classier note, Richest Picnic Meal winners Merry Mary Martyr Makers donned elaborate royal wear and served bloody marys.
And the Happy Dumplings team won Funnest Picnic Game, by lovingly “stuffing” all comers inside dozens of old rugs and blankets.