The 2016 Smithsonian Staff Picnic

As is traditional, the day of the Smithsonian Staff Picnic was blindingly hot and stiflingly humid, but as is also traditional, that didn’t keep everyone from having a great time!


Romantic painting of picnickers and

The Picnic, Thomas Cole, 1845. Courtesy The Brooklyn Museum. Note: This is not the actual 2016 Smithsonian Staff Picnic. In case you were confused.

A dazzling beautiful, if steamy, day tempted staff, interns, volunteers and alumni to enjoy Basque delicacies, tacos and Thai food, as well as samples of the award-winning cakes created for the Icing on the Cake Competition at the 2016 Smithsonian Staff Picnic on the National Mall July 6.

The depth, breadth and diversity of the Smithsonian was demonstrated by the research on display by the Congress of Scholars, the knowledge shared in the SI stories and Foodways tents, the welcome extended by SI employee groups and the astonishing musical talent demonstrated on the Ralph Rinzler and Musika Eta Dantza Etxea Stage (easy for us to say!)

Special thanks are due to the Smithsonian Community Committee for organizing the picnic, the many volunteers who gave their time to help out and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage for hosting the picnic during the annual Folklife Festival.

Enjoy some of the highlights from the picnic below and share your own photos and video by sending them to torch@si.edu.

View down the Mall of the Washington Monument from the Ralph Rinzler performace stage

A beautiful day for the 2016 Smithsonian Staff Picnic. (Photo by Alex di Giovanni)


Smiling adults and children pose in front of the SI Employee Groups tent.

Staff from the Office of Equal Employment and Minority Affairs brought along some future Smithsonian employees to enjoy the picnic. From left, Syvera O’Pharrow, Jordan Giles, Mark Cowen, Emma Cowan, Shahin Nemazee, Leela Nemazee, Erin Nemazee and Reza Nemazee. (Photo courtesy Shahin Nemazee)


Group photo in the SI Stories tent

“All About Plants” was the first discussion in the SI Stories tent at the 2016 Staff Picnic. Participants included (from left) moderator Jim Deutsch, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage; Sarah Hedean, living collections manager for Smithsonian Gardens; Sylvia Orli, digitization manager for Department of Botany at the National Museum of Natural History and Mary Savig, curator of manuscripts at the Archives of American Art. (Photo courtesy Jim Deutsch)


Smiling group wearing blue Smithsonian Community Committee T-shirts

Members of the Smithsonian Alumni Committee: from left, Mary Tanner, Jim Hobbins, Amy Kotkin and Tom Lawrence. (Photo by Holly Williamson)


Group listens attentively to curator in the foreground. Milestone of Flight Hall is in the background

Members of the Smithsonian Alumni Committee enjoy a tour of the exhibition “A New Moon Rises” led by Bob Craddock of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photo courtesy Marry Tanner)


Five kids pose for a picture; four are smiling, one boy makes a face for the camera

These happy kids belong to staff from the Office of Safety, Health and Environmental Management. brought their children to the picnic. We know your mother  (and father, Ajay Gulati) are very proud, Siddharth. Back row: Saihai Bahra, Pavi Bahra and Neet Bahra. Front row: Sidartth Gulati and Malayah Clarke. (Photo by Steven Cohn)


Four children with Nancy Bechtol on the national mall

OSHEM kids pose with Nancy Bechtol, director of the Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations at the 2016 Smithsonian Staff picnic. Their parents work for the Office of Safety, Health and Environmental Management. From left, Pavi Bahra, Siddharth Gulati, Nancy Bechtol, Saihai Bahra and Neet Bahra. (Photo by Stevn Cohn)


Group photo in front of the BASQUE sign on the National Mall.

Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton joins a group of interns from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden for a group photo at the 2016 Staff Picnic. From left, Madeline Feller, Samuel Shapiro, Morgan Brittain, Dr. Skorton, Gabrielle Hick and Lingfei Ren. (Photo by Jacob Kim)


Band on stage

The DWQ Jazz Band performed at the Ralph Rinzler Concert Stage during the Smithsonian Staff Picnic July 6. Led by founder Dave Walker and co-founder Rex Little of Smithsonian Facilities, band members are (from left) Peter Frassrand, Harry Clean Cut Clark, Walker, Harry Williams, Pookie Jenkins, Bubbles Dean and Little. (Photo by Alex di Giovanni)


Side view of trombonist on stage

Rex Little, Construction Control Representative for Smithsonian Facilities, plays trombone with the DWQ Jazz band at the Smithsonian Staff Picnic. (Photo by Alex di Giovanni)


Mannequin wearing diving gear and mask

A patient representative of the Smithsonian Diving Program models some of the gear used by scientific divers in the Congress of Scholars tent. It is difficult to recruit volunteers to wear a wetsuit in 90 percent humidity. (Photo by Alex di Giovanni)


Smiling man in blue Smithsonian shirt

Scientific Diving Officer Doug Schleiger would rather be underwater. (Photo by Alex di Giovanni)


Two women seated at table in tent with people setting up behind them

Julie Beals and Nguyen Rosa of the Office of Fellowships and Internships take a brief break in the Congress of Scholars tent at the 2016 Smithsonian Staff Picnic. (Photo by Alex di Giovanni)


Two musicans on stage, one sitting on the floor with a harmonium

T.L. “Swamp Fox” Merrion and Bradford “Fat Axe Lee” Smith (known as plain old Trevor and Brad by their colleagues at the Asian Cultural history Program at the Natural History Museum), play blues-infused ragas inspired by their journeys abroad. Trevor, left, plays 12-string guitar and harmonica; Brad plays guitar and the accordion-like harmonium. (Photo by Alex di Giovanni)

Watch this 360-degree video of Trevor and Brad in performance, created by Mike Tuttle of the office of the Chief Information Officer.


Man leans over table as two women point to paintings

John Barrat, of the Office of Communications and External Affairs, listens as Emily Jacobson, paper and photographs curator for the Freer and Sackler Galleries, and Lee Glazer, curator of American art at FSG ,explain how they use radiography and UV spectometry to conserve the watercolors of James McNeill Whistler. (Photo by Alex di Giovanni)


Band performing on stage, Smithsonian logo in background

The members of the band Old Goat have been playing together off and on since high school. From left, Jordan Alpert, Pat Ponton, Senior Construction Control Manager for the American Indian Museum and the Castle, Joe Ponton, D.J. Plaskin, Bill Brown and Steve Petro. (Photo by Alex di Giovanni)


Cruz sits at table covered with skulls in front of poster

Veterinary Pathology Fellow Michael Cruz explains how the National Zoo has been in the forefront of research into the Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus, a major killer of elephants both in human care and in the wild. (Photo by Alex di Giovanni)



Smiling women with cake decorated with blue and yellow Smithsonian logo.

Carolyn Tepolt (left), a post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center poses with her winning cake and Barbara Faust, director of Smithsonian Gardens.


Layer cake iced with blue and yellow Smithsonian logo.

And the winner is: “Increase and Profusion” by Carolyn Tepolt, a post-doc at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Institute. (Photo courtesy Chandra Heilman)


People gather around table displaying several cakes

The crowd clamors for a taste of the cakes submitted to the Icing on the Cake competition at the 2016 Smithsonian Staff picnic. (Photo courtesy Chandra Heilman)

Posted: 8 July 2016
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni has been editing The Torch since August 2006. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she worked as a writer and editor for the National Geographic Society, Plexus Scientific, The Nature Conservancy, The National Foreign Language Center and St. Martin’s Press, among others. She has the best job in the world.