In hard times, the show must go on | Nandell Palmer

Janet Campbell took on the task of a lifetime recently when corporate officials asked her to head the committee for the company’s annual picnic.

In former years, the company usually set aside $25,000 for such an event. But earlier this year, employees were forced to cut their salaries by 10 percent because of the down economy.

With a $400 budget to fete 145 people, the determined woman showed how you can get creative when funds are low.

Paying $100 for a deposit and another $100 for rent at a public park, Campbell was left with $200 to provide food and beverages, along with all the trimmings.

Through e-mails and personal office drop-bys, she asked people to step up and do their parts. Middle managers went directly to Costco to buy hotdogs and burgers.

Others volunteered to bring potluck dishes of baked beans, cole slaw, fried chicken, sausages, etc. And still others brought buns, condiments, soda, bottled water, napkins and silverware.

Macho guys trucked in oversized grills from home, and even helped to stoke those fire pits, dispensing succulent burgers.

When Campbell told me about her plans to work with this measly budget, I told her there was no way could she pull this off. She promised to keep me abreast of the outcome.

On Aug. 1, the group descended on the tony Eastside park — to party!

The weather was perfect. The camaraderie was boundless, and everybody was super creative, Campbell noted.

She was especially awed by how creative the children were, making props and toys for games.

Adults, too, joined in to teach the children games of the past — from their own childhood.

Gone are the days when these same children would come to the picnic expecting to receive high-end giveaways like iPods, digital albums and laptop computers, just to name a few.

But they have adapted well to the belt-tightening phase, the budget doyenne said.

All in all, Campbell told me that the consensus is that this year’s picnic has been the best one ever in all the years the company has been hosting them.

It must be told that the group was refunded its $100 park deposit, and had an additional $10 leftover from the budget.

Again, I cannot help but wonder: Why do people get so creative when they have so little to work with? What drives people to embark on tasks that once seemed so foreign to them?

According to a source, the late rapper Tupac Shakur made some of the best “tacos” from potatoes. He created culinary wonders with Top Ramen noodles. Those were the pre-stardom days when funds were really low.

In Finland during the early 1990s, when demand for their galoshes waned, the rubber boot company Nokia waded through murky waters to get a foot into the telecommunications business.

With their invention of the Nokia cellular phone, it’s hard to get the world to shut up these days.

Once upon a time, Nintendo was a taxi-operating company. Sony started out repairing shortwave radios. And the list goes on.

More and more, people are saying the show must go on. Those who had their minds set on $100,000 wedding receptions at regal hotel ballrooms are now trimming down to community centers and basic catering.

I strongly believe that by the time this recession is over, we all will have become better stewards of our finances. Or even become more industrious.

In the meantime, endeavor to be as creative as can be. You have it inside of you to change our world for the better. Go for it.

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