Connected by Culture: Smiles, Safety, and Fun at the 2020 Company Picnic

We have a hometown vibe at My Place Hotels’ corporate office here in South Dakota. It is even stronger in the summer when we get together for our annual company picnic, the cousin to the company holiday party.

It has been a rough spring and summer worldwide and across the nation as many suffer personal and business effects of the pandemic. But here in South Dakota we have a unique opportunity to get together, with caution: the company’s summer picnic did not get canceled. Co-workers came together half-way through the calendar year to have fun with colleagues, many who I don’t see very often because they work in other departments in our three-story building, and out in the field.

The annual gathering gives us a chance to connect on a more personal, friendly level in a casual setting, free from the sometimes stressful, sometimes exhausting workdays in the office. We gathered at Aberdeen, S.D.’s Wylie Park to create lasting memories full of laughter, smiles, and sunshine.

Getting together at the park is a change of scenery, an opportunity to connect from senior-level staff on down, talking in a neutral environment. As one of the social media folks, I found myself telling people from other departments a little more about what we do for locations across the country. We get new eyes on our hotels by promoting regional events and attractions, and in turn “heads in beds,” if you’ll pardon the expression. Not a belabored or braggy conversation, just the quick elevator talk.

And then I turn it around, asking how their effort is going. I know, we’re out to have fun and enjoy the day in the park, but it’s my chance, in a few seconds, to find out more about the people who I catch a glimpse of walking through the building or heading to our cars at noon and 5 p.m. It broadens our scope of what we’re doing as a business, and a chance to compare notes about staying successful in these trying times.

But perhaps the biggest plus of the company picnic: We feel appreciated. Our senior leadership team gives us a pleasant, no-pressure setting, a great meal, cold drinks, and a way to connect outside of work.

Sometimes the journey is the fun part of experiences. We walk to the go-cart track, playfully roar around in our little cars trying to pass each other while screaming and laughing, then walk back to the shady food and drink area. As we stroll the grassy expanses I feel the heat from the sun rising from the green lawn, and experience the sweet smell of green grass, like nature therapy.

Sweet day. And later teamwork, and actually work in general, is easier when you have met. Now we know each other a little bit better, have fond memories of a sunny day in the park, and are looking forward to next year’s get-together as well as what is to come in between.