The inestimable worth of a traditional company outing
For kids growing up in families where one or more parents work in manufacturing, an annual company outing is a big part of the impression the next generation develops of what their parents’ jobs are like.
I remember when my father was retiring from a long career at what is now BAE Systems but was then Sanders Associates in Nashua, NH. For his retirement, I wrote a speech to the effect that I knew my father worked at the best place in the world because every year they gave us free cheeseburgers and unlimited roller coaster rides. If it sounds like a joke, it wasn’t. I imagined Sanders was enormously capable, innovative, generous, kind-spirited, family-oriented. I felt Sanders valued solid employees like my dad, an engineer who had worked in quality assurance and many other positions. I imagined Sanders was a respected citizen of the work world, a good place to work, that they were serious about their fun and everything else. My dad was like that too.
Fast forward to the Amherst Label family outing at Six Flags this past weekend. For many years, the family-owned label and specialty printing company serving customers in the Northeast and beyond had gone to Canobie Lake and enjoyed a private barbecue followed by hitting the rides and amusements. As part of the Amherst Label strategic growth “Painted Picture,” the decision was made to take things up a notch and go to Six Flags New England, a little farther away with more excitement (roller coasters) on a larger scale.
Going bigger entailed chartering a bus for half of the employees and their families while the other half chose to drive themselves. With five movies selected by Angela (Siskel and Ebert) Calvetti Hornor, and deluxe coach conditions, the ride was enjoyable and breezed by. After a zany day at Six Flags, a cool, relaxing coach ride home is not a bad thing.
Bigger means more traffic, more security measures, longer lines, more crowds. Timing is everything and arriving at Agawam, MA, at Noon on a summer Saturday is about as clever as pulling into Hampton Beach around that time. Bumper to bumper delay for 45 minutes. Not ideal.
A sunny New England day in the mid-to-upper 90s can be pleasant in the shade, alongside a lake or in an air-conditioned place. Baking in the shadeless security line is not easy. But we all recognize the realities of our post 9/11 world and appreciate thorough security.
Like any other July activity, cooling off becomes a priority at various times during a day at an amusement park. The splash parks and random misters help cool grandparents and babes and everyone in between and are a fun spot to meet other hot and tired travelers. Refreshing, cooling spray has universal appeal and we found ourselves enjoying the moment with others who didn’t speak English and it didn’t matter. A theme park is like a mini-United Nations of tourists/visitors. It’s a wonderful opportunity to leave our busy manufacturing plant in a small New England town and interact with other families from the world over who share one common purpose: fun.
No one does the thrill rides any better than Nye Hornor, our VP of Sales, Marketing & Operations. He’s strategic about the lines and whether or not to try for the fast pass system. He’ll rate the front seat versus the back seat on the extreme coasters and his family joins him in every bit of the action. But what does he like most? “It’s great to keep in touch with the families of everyone who works here, to see each other in a fun place and ask, “Did you try that ride? What did you think?” He likes seeing people he works with in a very different setting and seeing the families grow: Jim’s daughter just graduated from high school and Mark and Missy’s son keeps getting better and better at baseball.
Owner Nick Calvetti does not lack daring and speeds around doing the top attractions with his son, daughter and their friends and family. But he’s delighted to slow the pace and enjoy the traditional carousel with his youngest grand-daughter too. Tradition is important in this family-owned company.
Three days later, we’re still bumping into people in our workaday world whom we bumped into at Six Flags and smiling and laughing and sharing stories. There’s a heightened sense of camaraderie as even people who couldn’t attend for one reason or another are enjoying the tales of trials and adventure. There is also a little residual fatigue from the excitement–a couple of us compared our steps on our phone apps and discovered we walked over 7,000 steps that day. Angela (Calvetti) Hornor didn’t notice that she tallied 17,229 while racing around with Nye and their family.
Today, as our company outing becomes a memory of the summer of 2016, I expect others are experiencing what I am feeling: a profound gratitude to our employer for the generous gift of the day and enthusiasm for working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Amherst Label family.