Members of the San Francisco Bay Area diplomatic corps joined with members of the Church here Oct. 24 for some California-style fun at the first Western Family Picnic.
The picnic, held at the Silverado Country Club in Napa, some 35 miles north of San Francisco, provided an opportunity for diplomats and their families to gather with Latter-day Saints to promote mutual understanding and build international relationships.Attending the event was Elder John B. Dickson of the Seventy and president of the North America West Area, who later said: "Our day with the consuls general, their families and staff members was a delightful experience. During the interchange of cultures and traditions, friendships were established that will enhance positive, lasting relationships with these good people and the countries they represent."
Speaking of the positive nature of the picnic, Pres. Merrill Higham of the San Francisco California Stake said the consuls general in California issue about 95 percent of the Church's missionary visas. He said the organizers of the picnic hoped to provide a way to say thank you to the many people who help the Church by quickly processing those visas.
Hosts for the event were golf pro Johnny Miller, who is also the Napa stake public affairs director; U.S. Rep. Wally Herger and his wife, Pamela; U.S. Rep. John Doolittle and his wife, Julie; and members of The International Advisory Group.
Also attending were Elder Norman Boehm, an Area Authority Seventy; former state Sen. William Campbell, who is Northern California director of Public Affairs; William S. Evans, manager of Domestic Area Relations for the Church; and Conrad Burgoyne, manager of Visa Services for the Church Travel Office.
Countries represented at the picnic included Taiwan, Venezuela, Panama, Bolivia, El Salvador, the Philippines, Hungary, Egypt, Switzerland, Germany, Nicaragua, Peru, Colombia, Fiji, the Russian Federation, the Dominican Republic and Madagascar.
The picnic featured a barbecue feast, traditional American crafts and an impressive lineup of entertainment throughout the day. Brother Miller led a special clinic for a number of the golfers who attended. BYU's Living Legends performed dance routines in intricate Native American costumes. BYU's International Folk Dance Team demonstrated traditional American square dancing and clogging, then taught the delighted guests a few western steps. Other entertainment included folk songs performed by members of the Santa Rosa California Stake, Ballet Folkorico Sarita, a Mexican youth dance ensemble, and a lasso demonstration by Verla Jackson of the Fairfield California Stake.
The diplomats expressed their appreciation that the Church sponsored an event that permitted them to bring their families.
"I brought my grandchildren, understanding this is a family affair, and I think they are enjoying it a lot," said the Philippine Consul General Teresita V. Marazn, during the picnic. "I think this is an American side they have never seen, an introduction into American culture."
Rolando Gumiel, consul general of Bolivia, expressed appreciation for an event that allowed him to have exposure to different cultures while enjoying time with his family.
"It is very special to have this confraternity between the different countries which are present," he said. "I hope we are able to continue our bonds with each other in the future. Thank you for inviting me and my family in the name of my country to this picnic."
The day ended with guests receiving gifts of gourmet fruit jellies and Mormon Tabernacle Choir compact discs. As the tired and happy participants made their way to their cars, a special spirit of camaraderie was noted throughout the group.
"It is important to keep these avenues open," Brother Miller said. "We're here to try to show these people we are good citizens trying to accomplish a good work by preaching the gospel throughout the world."