Brats, burgers, broad-brimmed hats, blooms and hummingbirds
By Lynn Volkens
The sun was shining, the breezes were gentle, the food was plentiful and attendance was high at the annual Gilpin County Seniors’ Picnic held at the north-county home of Violet Aandres and Richard Deubel. This was the seventh year for the garden luncheon, which is organized through the county’s Senior Services program. Mary Ellen Makosky, Senior Services Coordinator, brought the burgers and brats; the seniors brought appetizers, salads, side dishes and desserts – enough that finding a place for everything on the food tables was a challenge. Diners returned for seconds and thirds to the brightly painted crock lemonade dispenser and to a bowl of particularly juicy and flavorful watermelon.
Deubel had arranged the perfect setting in the flagstone courtyard with a large picnic table, several smaller tables, and chairs placed round for all. Aandres, dressed in a scarlet and white kimono and a large red-striped hat, was easy to find among the thirty-plus guests. “Hats” was the word of the day. Aandres may have enough hats to rival Bartholomew Cubbins, and she happily doled them out to anyone who’d arrived lacking a broad brim.
As plentiful as Aandres’ hats, were the hummingbirds enjoying their liquid feast from numerous feeders. Several guests worked their way around from the upper garden to the lower “shade” garden, to the deck surround (which Deubel had finished painting just the day before) and stood looking over the ponds below. Away from all the hub-bub, the little “hummers” were mighty inquisitive, coming cheek-brush close to brightly-colored earrings; tickling necks and naked arms as they investigated colorful shirts.
More plentiful even than the hummingbirds, are the flowers in the gardens. Aandres and Deubel have spent years amending soil, moving and arranging rock (including a unique “Czech crevice garden”), guiding native vegetation, giving tried-and true succulents plenty of room and bringing in unusual, sometimes very exotic looking singular newcomers for a “What is that?” garden-show-stopping moment. Their work doesn’t go unnoticed; one observant senior specifically commented on the extension of a flower bed in the lower garden. This year’s stunner was a large datura (potted) boasting a multitude of cheerful yellow double-blooms, sometimes called “angel’s trumpets” (along with some less-flattering names in other parts of the country – like “weed.”)
The once-a-year garden picnic is a special luncheon for the seniors. Gilpin County regularly hosts senior luncheons on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Community Center on Norton Drive. The menu varies. The socializing, information sharing, friendly razzing, joke telling and general good time is a year-round standard.