Tuesday, June 4, 2013



I love picnics. Never been to a bad one, even when it rained, From a kid angling for a second piece of tart lemon pie to an older guy trying not to stare at what's inside those bikinis, a picnic is a joy forever.
When I was the skinny orphan where I never did anything during the summer but swim and imagine what the world must be like outside the small town, the simple church picnic was a major event.
Only one concession road out of Chesley, and the Saugeen River is not much at that point, and all the people there I saw twice every Sunday, but I still enjoyed every slice of pie and all the egg salad sandwiches even though well-filled bikinis had not yet entered my thoughts.
Then there have been all the Plewes picnics with my aunt and uncle and their 11 children with whom I lived when I went to Weston Collegiate. Fine food, great anecotes, but I couldn't admirt the bikinis because I was related to all of them.
And now has come,  for my 47th time, the preview of the CHIN Picnic which of course is held at the Ex for three days ending July 1. And I can stare at the bikinis, providing Mary is on the other side of the Liberty Grand and my son Mark is off winning the barbecue.
In my defense, may I say that I am restrained in my admiration and never say a word. But Lenny and Theresa Lombardi invite all these boisterous guys with Italian heritage and they are unreserved in their admiration and comments. I thought I was somewhere in Rome having a drink at an outside table while the world paraded by, and some may as well just been wearing a bikini.
What I love about Lenny's party, beside the food, is it's an unabashed celebration of womanhood. And in this day of political correctness which has destroyed such pleasant events as the Miss Toronto contest,  it is nice not to be made out to be a pervert for taking a second look.
Back when it all began in 1966, back when (sorry Lenny) CHIN was an unknown ethnic radio station run by his dad Johnny Lombardi who also brought acts over from Italy, Johnny got the idea of the bikini contest which was manna from heaven for all the news photographers who loved to shoot women, and for all the editors like me who loved to run the pictures.
The CHIN party became the darling of the media.
Usually we were made to feel guilty by the dogooders and PC missionaries who eventually convinced the Toronto police association that its sponsorship of the Miss Toronto beauty contest was not wise. Politicians of all hues and stripes hastened to crap all over beauty contests and threatened to ban them from public property everywhere, including, probably, the moon.
But along came Lombardi and an ETHNIC BEAUTY CONTEST. And the activists and gliberals didn't know quite what to do. After all, it was the era of the huge hit of Metro Caravan, those marvelous days where you bought a passport and jaunted around to 54 church halls and auditoriums named after distant capitals and ate and drank well, and admired the dancing and exotic displays.
No one official in Toronto was about to attack any ethnic event, perhaps to make up for how post-war immigrants were treated. So the CHIN picnic and the radio station prospered, even though the Toronto Sun in the early years still suffered broadsides of indignation whenever the SUNShine girl was too bare or not ethnic enough. Often I was called upon to defend the Girl, and used to bring up as a fallen Baptist  that I didn't remember which one of the Ten Commandments mentioned women's bathing suits. All the media loved the CHIN bikini contest even if the Star and Globe were holier than thou about the SUNshine Girl while running some pretty bare females themselves. TV and the Star and the Globe could display some "girlie" pictures without subscribers phoning up to cancel in blue-rinse indignation.
Over the years, the advance party has also been a must event for savvy politicians as well as photogs.  For example, Doug Holyday was at the latest, but then the deputy mayor may have just been in hiding from the tag team of the Fords. Everyone loves an invite because you can mingle in a rich ethnic boisterous affair which can torture the ears as you do the same to your stomach.
I would never miss it. Lenny says in his program: "Many people ask why we describe this fantastic multicultural music festival as a picnic. I like to say the image and emotion conjured up by the word picnic is synonymous with the event. Think family, fun, outdoors, friends and good food and just like a family picnic there is no admission fee."
Oh yes, I'm told there is also a bikini contest for men. That may well be so, but I keep getting distracted by what we used to call stupidly the weaker sex.

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