A Day at the Park

Bellisario professor Renea Nichols sets up themed picnics in Bellefonte's Talleyrand Park.

photo of a picnic setup near water in a park courtesy of Renea Nichols


Day after day on the San Diego beach she frequented during the COVID-19 pandemic, Renea Nichols would watch a young woman setting up an elaborate picnic. “She would haul out a table, set it up with plates and glasses and everything,” says Nichols, associate teaching professor of public relations and advertising, who spent much of the pandemic in Southern California.

Nichols learned that the woman catered picnics. She had fond memories of the family and church picnics she’d enjoyed growing up—“I was always the one who had to operate the ice cream churner”—and she decided to do the same thing: put together themed picnics to showcase Talleyrand Park in nearby Bellefonte, Pa., where she lives. She was motivated by the chance to celebrate local restaurants and to display the many vintage items she owns. (Thrifting, she says, is her passion.)

Renea Nichols outdoors, courtesyNichols says she set up Spring Creek Picnics for her own pleasure—but her friends convinced her to enter a competition organized by the Bellefonte SpringBoard, which supports local entrepreneurs. She won, and she put her prize money toward launching Spring Creek Picnics as a business in May 2021. Since then, she has created themed picnics for birthdays, anniversaries, marriage proposals, and bridal showers. Once, she organized a 100-person picnic for a sorority. “The whole idea is to get off social media, unwind, and enjoy each other’s company for two hours,” Nichols says. All clients need do is choose their food from a list of Bellefonte eateries. Then, “I supply everything,” she says, “a table, plates, glasses, games. I put in a Bluetooth speaker, mosquito spray, wet wipes, a garbage bag. I try to make it personal, so if it’s a silver wedding anniversary, for example, I’ll incorporate silver into the décor.”

It was so hot the summer she launched Spring Creek Picnics that Nichols introduced nighttime star-gazing picnics. In the winter, she offers indoor picnics at the Bellefonte Bed & Breakfast. “Personally, I love going to the park, sitting on a blanket with a book, and chilling,” she says, “so I’ve been pushing the solo-boho picnic idea.”