Feeding Laramie Valley is inviting the community to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.

Food and Fun in the Park is set for 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday at the organization’s LaBonte Park headquarters, 968 N. Ninth. The free event includes lunch, live music, dancing and family activities.

Lina Dunning, community engagement coordinator for Feeding Laramie Valley, said the end-of-summer party has become an annual tradition since the organization began leasing its building from the city several years ago.

“We always try to have something big and public to show off the building and say thanks,” she said.

The menu includes loaded nachos with Mexican corn salad and melon on the side, plus cake for dessert.

There will also be live music from Mumble the Peg and swing dance demonstrations and lessons from Nichol’s Country Dance. Visitors can visit with llamas and donkeys, tour the production gardens and participate in old-fashioned games such as sack races and three-legged races.

This year, the organization is celebrating its 10th year with a cake baking and decorating contest. Albany County bakers of all abilities are invited to submit a cake for judging in one of five categories — best visual design, best use of fruits and/or vegetables, best representation of Feeding Laramie Valley, most creativity with dietary considerations and best overall cake, the last of which comes with a $100 prize.

Entrants are also encouraged to tell a story about their cake or its history. Entry forms can be submitted online, by phone or in person. Judging is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.

“It’s a way to share and celebrate a little bit,” Dunning said.

Feeding Laramie Valley got its start when volunteers set up a booth at the Downtown Laramie Farmer’s Market to collect extra produce from customers and sellers. The organization donated what it collected to area non-profits that served food.

“That was the first attempt to make fresh, local food available to everybody, even people that couldn’t afford to shop at the market,” Dunning said.

Dunning has worked as a volunteer since the organization’s early years, alongside founder Gayle Woodsum.

When it moved to LaBonte Park, Feeding Laramie Valley started growing its own food around the outside of the building. The organization also gardens on an acre of land at the Albany County Fairgrounds and in several private yards.

These days, the food that’s collected or grown — about 7,000 pounds a year — is distributed to non-profits as well as individuals and families through a free shares program. As with many local gardens, the 2019 season got off to a slow start because of cold weather and storms, but the August conditions are proving perfect for growing.

“Right now everything is green and lush and looking beautiful,” Dunning said.

Last spring, Feeding Laramie Valley launched a community garden at Kiwanis Park, and it just wrapped up a free nine-week summer lunch program called Kids Out to Lunch. A slew of interns and AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers power the summer programs.

The organization has expanded into the education realm, with issues such as food justice and food security at the forefront of its mission. In 2016, Feeding Laramie Valley started the Higher Ground Fair as a celebration of rural life in the West.

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