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Gazette Premium Content Black Forest residents gather at picnic to mark fire anniversary

4 photos photo - A picnic was held at Black Forest Park , marking one year since the beginning of the Black Forest Fire. Courtesy photo by Dave Jones. + caption
A picnic was held at Black Forest Park , marking one year since the beginning of the Black Forest Fire. Courtesy photo by Dave Jones.
by EMILY DONOVAN emily.donovan@gazette.com - Updated: June 11, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Black Forest residents listened to a band, tossed footballs and ate ice cream at the community picnic hosted by El Paso County Wednesday night at Black Forest Regional Park.

El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn didn't want to call the picnic a celebration.

"We've been through a lot this past year," Glenn said. "This was a perfect opportunity for people to reconnect with the community."

The event marked one year since the beginning of last year's Black Forest fire, which killed two people, destroyed 488 homes, and blackened 14,280 acres.

County officials gave certificates of appreciation to 48 organizations who raised money, donated clothes, moved furniture and housed animals after the disaster.

A donation from the FedEx Corp. paid for the band and ice cream.

Eric Olson, who has lived in Black Forest all his life, caught up with a neighbor while eating free Black Forest ice cream. Rizuto's Ice Cream specially designed the flavor - chocolate, walnuts and cherries - for the event.

"People need a community event to connect, heal, share, remember, and get a free ice cream," Olson said.

Raina Seabaugh pushed her 3-year-old daughter on a swing as her husband bought dinner from food vendors.

Seabaugh has lived in Black Forest since she was 3.

"I wanted to come and just be happy with people and celebrate that we're all still here together," she said.

This past year, Sam Aarons lived through the fire damaging her home, a divorce and a flood. She was impressed by how many people came to the picnic.

"This has been one of the loneliest years of my life and I can't believe this many people live out here," Aarons said.

Brooke Mitchell and her husband helped their 10- and 7-year-old sons build wooden lawn mower toys at a craft station provided by Home Depot.

For them, the event was about having fun in a place that has seen so much pain.

"We just came out to see other families in the community and support Black Forest," she said.

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