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Plus, a weekend guide for our Incline Insiders.
The Incline

🌻 Meet the picnic pals behind Blanket & Board

Plus, a weekend guide for our Incline Insiders.

By Francesca Dabecco

Happy Friday, Pittsburgh.

It’s the perfect time to dine and drink alfresco, and Pittsburgh pals Colleen Peddycord and Tierra Thorne are laying down the best way to serve beautiful picnics with a purpose. They’re the founders of Blanket & Board, an event planning business that they started in June 2020 with a focus on creating thoughtful experiences while giving back to the community.

“At the time, Tierra and I were working together as social workers at a childhood trauma treatment center, and George Floyd had just been murdered. We were in the midst of the pandemic, and everyone was stressed out, scared, and anxious,” Colleen told The Incline. “We were at Tierra’s house on her porch, and we made a charcuterie board and were like ‘we should do this as a thing.’”

“Starting out, we just wanted to do a self-care Sunday and bring people together in a safe, socially distanced way,” Tierra added. “Plus, we both really love the outdoors. We were so over-stimulated by everything, and being in nature and in our parks is so calming.”

What started as a backyard event and safe way for friends and family to gather during the pandemic quickly gained steam and became a popular series of pop-up picnics across the city.

“People were really needing it,” Tierra said. “They really needed to get outside.”

When you book a picnic with Blanket & Board, you’re given a stunning setup with flowers, candles, blankets, and pillows, as well as a charcuterie platter featuring fresh fruits and veggies, meats and cheese, bagels and crackers, and more (Vegan or gluten free? Don’t worry. They have options for you too). Just show up at the park of your choice at the agreed-upon time, and the arrangement will be ready for your picnic pleasures.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Colleen and Tierra at their Blanket & Board one-year anniversary celebration. What follows is our interview, edited for clarity and length.

🌻 5 Questions with Blanket & Board

Blanket & Board founders Colleen Peddycord and Tierra Thorne (📸: Rebecca Sufrin courtesy of Blanket & Board)

Francesca: Happy first birthday to the business! What has your favorite part about Blanket & Board been so far?

Colleen: I like the creative aspect of it. It’s really nice to create this sweet space for other people. One time, these people were finishing up with a picnic and just laying together after playing this couples card game that we put in the picnic. We were early and just watched them for like 15 minutes. 

Tierra: They were holding hands and passing the cards back and forth. They told us it was the best anniversary [celebration] and we were like “We did that! We made this happen!” 

We’ve also done picnics for young girls through Fro Gang, and they just felt like princesses for a day. These children — who have so much trauma — don’t get to live their best lives every day. But for these two hours, we waited on them hand and foot, told them how pretty they were, and told them they didn’t have to worry about anything. We love it, and I can see this being an annual thing.

How has your background as social workers influenced the mission of your business? 

Colleen: As social workers, our primary mission is to uplift and give voices to at risk and underserved communities. Our understanding of ourselves and others revolves around a “person in environment” concept, meaning we pay close attention to environmental factors and how changes to space and circumstance can support well-being. A big part of creating a safe environment involves how we feel in our physical space and having a network of people with whom we feel we belong. 

Blanket & Board is all about creating a beautiful, relaxed atmosphere where all people can come together, share food, and celebrate one another. We want to use our business as a platform to encourage self-care and relationship building in addition to getting people outside to experience the healing power of nature. 

Tierra: Also, I’m Black in Pittsburgh. It’s not a city that has a lot of opportunities for people who look like me. I know that I am really one of the fortunate ones, and I want to be able to bring light to those issues and disparities that Black people have in Pittsburgh. The data is there. You could literally go anywhere else in the United States. Black people can move to Arkansas and increase their life expectancy by three years; it’s that bad here.

Blanket & Board picnic in a Pittsburgh park. (📸: Blanket & Board)

A portion of all Blanket & Board proceeds are donated to local organizations and nonprofits. Why is that an integral part of your business and what local organizations have you supported so far?

Colleen: It is important to us to highlight supportive resources in the community. For 2021, we plan to donate to Healthy Village, Fro gang, SisTers PGH, Strong Women, Strong Girls, and When She Thrives. These are local organizations that focus on creating support systems for local young people and women. 

We are donating a portion of our proceeds to nonprofits in the area because we want them to have visibility. If we can have an Instagram presence or whatever, that’s nice. But we already have jobs. We noticed that a few more picnic businesses have popped up in Pittsburgh, and as we noticed that happening, we really want to stay true to our mission in supporting other minority and women owned businesses in Pittsburgh.

Some of the most valuable conversations happen when you are at a table, eating food, and surrounded by good company. Blanket & Board came at a time when people were really desperate to have these experiences and needed to get outside. So what types of conversations do you hope your picnics inspire?

Tierra: I want people to meticulously think about the person that they are sitting with as someone that they value in their lives.

Colleen: Open, safe conversations where people can ask questions and talk about whatever in a safe space. We do a lot of birthdays, anniversaries, and girls' brunches. Sometimes we forget to celebrate the people in our lives who support us; we choose the people we surround ourselves with every day. 

Tierra: I also want people to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s just the reality: things aren’t always peachy and cream. A lot of conversations are difficult to have.

Colleen: Right now a lot of “difficult” conversations have to do with privilege. Acknowledging privilege doesn't dismiss your experience, and having privilege doesn't mean you haven't experienced hardship or worked hard in your life. Depending on who you are, it means you inherently started off further up on the ladder and having an awareness of your experience in relation to others is important if we want to live in a world where every person deserves a fair chance. Having an awareness of your privilege allows you to use that privilege as leverage to uplift and provide space for more understanding. 

Blanket & Board charcuterie spread. (📸: Rebecca Sufrin courtesy of Blanket & Board)

Do you have any heartfelt anecdotes from past picnics you’d like to share?

Colleen: We had this very nice couple who adopted a couple of kids, and they just left the nest. They were like “Oh my god,  we just needed to find something to do during COVID.” We ended up sitting down with them after their picnic and hanging out for another hour. There was also one woman who had a baby during the pandemic and said that this gave her and her husband a reason to get outside and have a sense of normalcy; it also allowed their child to see other kids for the first time.

Tierra: We have a picnic coming up with neighbors who have known each other for 40 years; it’s really sweet. There’s also a mother and daughter who booked a picnic last year during the beginning of school that are doing it again this year.

To find out Tierra and Colleen’s picnic must-haves, their tips on how to throw a gathering B&B style, and what you can expect if you book a picnic with them, read our full Q-and-A here.

🌻 Looking for something besides a pop-up picnic? You can order DIY picnic boxes for your whole office or book Blanket & Board to create a grazing table for your next party. To learn more about Blanket & Board’s services, visit their website and follow them on Instagram.

Help us help you

Today our members — a.k.a. Incline Insiders — are getting a weekend guide specially curated by us! It includes tips on where to snag glazed goodies from the newest donut makers in town, an event for lovers of local corn season, a creative workshop at one of Pittsburgh’s industrial backdrops, and more. Don’t miss out on next week’s edition.

Get in on the fun by becoming an Incline Insider today.

Today

🌱 Join Phipps for an online screening and discussion of "Gather," a film about Native Americans reclaiming their spiritual, political, and cultural identities through food sovereignty (Online)

📕 Learn the history of the Squirrel Hill Cafe at the launch and reading of The Red Door: An Historical Memoir of The Squirrel Hill Cafe written by past and present bartenders (Squirrel Hill)

🍔 Taste the best food on four wheels at the Greater Pittsburgh Food Truck Festival through Sunday. Enjoy dozen of the region’s best food trucks with live music, entertainment, drinks, vendors, and more (Meadows Racetrack & Casino)

Tomorrow

🎭 Audition with the Pittsburgh New Works Festival as they celebrate their rescheduled 30th year with new one-act plays. Actors of all types, ages, races, ethnicities, genders, abilities, sexual orientations, and experiences are welcome (Virtual)

🛍️ Shop around Market Square at the Saturday Night Market every Saturday until October for crafts, art, fashion, jewelry with live music, good food, and more (Downtown)

🎨 Stroll down Gist St. with local artist James Simon for a tour of one of Pittsburgh's most creative blocks, presented by Doors Open (Uptown)

🎵 Enjoy live music, artists, and vendors at Hands Over Deutschtown at Allegheny Commons Park (North Side)

🌳 Help Tree Pittsburgh litter, weed, and mulch around trees on East Carson St from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (South Side)

🍓 Support local farmers and artisans at the Terminal Farmers Market between the 17th and 20th Street Passageways(Strip District)

🌸 Excavate the hidden treasures of your mind by playing with the ancient Japanese art of Haiku (Online)

Sunday

📸 Ages 14 to 17 are welcome to take a shot at Rivers of Steel's Teen Photo Adventure at Carrie Blast Furnaces with professional photographer Cara Gaetano (Swissvale)

🍻 Drink some good brews for a good cause at Pints for Paws with The Urban Tap (Shadyside)

Tuesday

🎺 Join The Hot Club jazz listening sessions, featuring the life and work of Louis Armstrong (North Side)

✂️ Join the Parks Conservancy and their partners to celebrate the new first phase of the North Promenade Rehabilitation Project at their Ribbon Cutting Celebration (North Side)

Wednesday

☕ Learn how to market your side hustle with Emily Bezak, owner of Emily Bezak Writes and Founder of Marketers in PJs, at Marketing Pittsburgh's Coffee Break (Online)

🌱 Garden and learn all things vegetation and planting with your little at the Phipps Kids Plant Club. Kids can pick up a plant kit full of 10 garden-ready plants and then tune into a virtual class (Online)

Promotion from Pittsburgh Young Professionals

🏕 Get Out! Get Active! Go Ape!

Make connections with local young professionals as you take an aerial journey on the region’s high ropes course [discounted price].

Join the Adventure on August 7th!

One more thing …

Cheers to the weekend, readers! I know some of yinz are looking forward to cracking open a cold one and relaxing after a long workweek. Which reminds me...

🍻 Did you vote your favorite brewery through to the Final Four in The Incline’s Ultimate Pittsburgh Brewery Bracket?

🗳️ Voting for this round ends at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 19. Cast your vote by following this link — and share it with your sud drinkin’ bud too!

Have a great weekend!

— Francesca at The Incline

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