ROOTS Family Picnic

ROOTS Picnic attendees waiting for the next main stage act on the stage (2013 - courtesy of RaePop, Inc.)

ROOTS Picnic attendees waiting for the next main stage act on the stage (2013 - courtesy of RaePop, Inc.)


ROOTS History


In the early 1970's a dinner invitation went out from Arline and Letcher Yarbrough to eight couples who had been close friends thirty and forty years before, seeing each other frequently and sharing many interests,  The more recent years found them scattered and out of touch.  The response to the invitation was excellent.  All who were still living in the Seattle area accepted; eager to see old friends again.  The result of that gathering was the foundation for the ROOTS Family Picnic.

Arline (Steward) Yarbrough had two motives to get her friends together; the joy she derived from visiting with old friends, and to make an effort to establish a more regular pattern for their meeting each other. The early Seattle families affectionately referred to themselves as "Seattle Old-Timers."

Those who attended the regular dinner gatherings agreed that a reunion was in order.  By word of mouth the call went out to the "Old Timers" to come to a picnic at Seward Park.  More than 300 people came to the first reunion.  Many had not seen each other for 40-50 years. It was such a success that the group decided to give the gathering a formal name.  The name ROOTS came to Arline; Relatives Of Old Timers of Seattle.

Today, ROOTS does not exist as in organization per se; there are no elections, officers, nor dues.  Duties and responsibilities are delegated on a rotating basis by a steering committee.  Voluntary contributions finance the cost of operating expenses.  The membership is comprised of people from the African-American community, their friends, and their relatives who were residents of Washington State prior to 1940.  The steering committee meets two or three times a year to plan each successive reunion.

The average attendance is over 1,000 people and ROOTS from all parts of the country "come home" for the occasion.  

In 1999 the Steering Committee was unable to sponsor the picnic due to logistical challenges.  For two years, (1999 and 2000) there was no ROOTS picnic.  At that time, the Northwest Black Pioneers and the Breakfast Group stepped in to fill the void and continue the tradition.

With the Breakfast Group's support, In 2012 the ROOTS Family Picnic celebrated its 40th year anniversary.

The 2017 Picnic

This year, the 45th Annual ROOTS Family Picnic details are in the early stages of planning.  

The Breakfast Group, The Northwest Black Pioneers, Seattle Parks and Recreation, ROOTS Committee, the Northwest African American Museum, and the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture are co-sponsoring the event.

Once announced, there will be limited space for this event. Please RSVP a table with Paul Mitchell at 206-329-6893.

Families are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch, beverages, utensils, blankets, chairs and all other picnic supplies.  A special food table will be hosted for senior citizens.