There were people lined up at the gates as early as 10:30 a.m.
There were rides for the kids, face painting, bingo and free hot dogs and soda.
There were union banners, union T-shirts, booths with pamphlets of information, political figures making the rounds, and there was beer.
There was plenty of beer.
And for the thousands who came to Headwaters Park on Monday there were plenty of good times to be had at Organized Labor’s Free Labor Day Picnic.
The event attracted more than 7,000 people last year, according to the Northeast Indiana Labor Council, which helped put together the event. Monday’s crowd appeared to be just as large – if not larger – than last year’s.
“It’s a great day and its nice to show an appreciation for the working people who’ve made this city great,” said City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, as he made the rounds at the picnic.
The City Council spent much of the past few months embroiled in contentious decisions involving labor issues, from eliminating collective bargaining for all of the city’s union employees save for police officers and firefighters to passing a right-to-work code into city law.
Paddock opposed getting rid of collective bargaining and voted against the right-to-work law, which prevents unions from requiring nonunion workers to pay dues.
Monday’s large crowds, though, might’ve been an indication that those issues are still in the forefront of many workers’ minds and are not going away any time soon.
“I think there’s more interest and more conversations now about rights in the workplace,” Paddock said.