Amid the vibrant colors and fragrant aroma of Manito Park's iconic rose garden, the luxurious picnic setup is inviting and summery, like a scene from the pages of a high-end lifestyle magazine.
A crisp white quilt is spread atop the lush green lawn and piled with plush pillows and cushions. Atop the blanket, a low table at the perfect height for sitting on the ground is set with sparkling crystal goblets and tumblers and a delicate lace runner from end to end. A vase of fresh, coral-hued roses accented with sprigs of baby's breath adds a pop of color to the arrangement of mostly white and pastel pinks.
The tableau is one of many offered by Pop Up Picnic Spokane, a mobile picnic service that brings a chic outdoor dining experience to nearly any locale. Founded by Rachel Killpack in spring 2019, the business offers thoughtfully curated dining settings for everything from weddings to baby showers, engagement proposals to birthday parties.
"Picnicking like this is quite popular in the U.K., and when you go over especially to the continent, and you go to France, you see lots of families enjoying picnics and it's not just a rug on the ground, it's a table and chairs and they really bring the whole dining room outside," Killpack says. "It's very European."
So far this year, Killpack has styled a dozen or so private picnic dinners and bookings are picking up as the weather warms. The British transplant, a former teacher whose husband serves in the U.S. Air Force, was inspired to launch the business after seeing a friend's similar operation in Australia, where her family lived before moving to Spokane a year and a half ago. The creative venture also pairs perfectly with Killpack's love of the outdoors.
"I was following and watching what they did, and thought 'I would love to be able to do that,'" Killpack recalls. "I did it as a family picnic first, and posted a photo on Facebook just to get feelers out and see if anyone would book it, and straight away I got bookings. I've been really busy ever since."
Pop Up Picnic Spokane hosts intimate arrangements that can seat two people as well as large outdoor banquets for 30 guests and can set up picnics in public parks, at private venues like Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, or in clients' backyards. The latter is a popular option this season and one that Killpack encourages due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"I think that adds to the experience," she says of hosting a picnic at home. "You can enjoy it without interruptions and you're guaranteed a spot."
While Killpack only provides the physical elements for a luxe outdoor dining experience — blankets, pillows, tables, place settings and festive table decor — she encourages customers to order food from local caterers or restaurants. Bites & Treats Catering is one local company she often suggests for its charcuterie-style graze boards.
Pop Up Picnic Spokane is essentially open as long as the weather allows, from late spring to early fall, but indoor picnics are also an option in the off-season. As the sole employee of her business — outside of help from her 15-year-old son, Will — Killpack can usually host just one event per day, and averages two or three a week.
Pricing starts at $99 for a picnic for two, and goes up to $450 for the largest option, seating 30 guests. Details on each booking option are listed at popuppicnicspokane.com. Each picnic is typically about two hours long, but can be extended or shortened. And if the weather doesn't cooperate, Killpack doesn't charge a cancellation fee; instead she's happy to work with clients to reschedule for another time.
"You can't always predict the weather, especially a month in advance," she says. "And it won't have the same ambiance if we have to put a tent over it, either, so I try to get people to postpone if they can."
While most picnics she sets up are within the Spokane area, clients further away can still book events with an added fee for the extra distance. Most locations are fair game, but Killpack asks that there's nearby parking so she and her son don't have to haul the setup too far. For spots more off the beaten path, she also offers a traditional picnic basket ($50) that's easier to carry, along with blankets and a few pillows. For picnics in public areas, however, she cautions that alcohol is usually not allowed.
Killpack finds inspiration everywhere for new picnic themes, and currently has decor for setups that range from romantic to whimsical.
"I love the creative side of it, so I truly try to set it up so each picnic is a little different," she says. "I have more of a little girl's picnic with a teepee and all the bunting and things like that, but I always go with what the celebration is. I have all different colors of cushions, and I can do it really formal, or more relaxed and fun."
The blankets, place settings and decor she sources from various big box hobby, department and discount stores, but the low tables and all the cushion and pillow coverings were custom made by Killpack.
"I am a very crafty sort of person, and I love making things," she says. "If someone came to me and said 'Could you do a Harry Potter or Seahawks theme?' or something like that, I can adapt and personalize."
By sewing her own pillow coverings, Killpack not only saves money, but cleanup between events is a breeze since she can take off the cases and wash them, versus having to wash — and store — dozens of pillows in different colors and patterns.
"I would have to move houses if I had more cushions," she says, laughing.
Next on Killpack's schedule is a bachelorette party in a client's backyard, and her first time ever setting up for a marriage proposal. Recent events she's coordinated include a local woman's celebration with friends for becoming free of breast cancer, and a lunch organized by a group of mothers of special needs children. Her first picnic of the year was indoors, a surprise planned by a father to celebrate his daughter's graduation from Gonzaga University after the formal ceremony was canceled.
"He organized for me to set up a picnic in a lounge room for her and her roommates, and then got food delivered to them," Killpack says. "I thought that was really special since their original plan was for him to fly here and they couldn't do that because of the lockdown."
For all of her events, whether a surprise for someone or a preplanned celebration, Killpack simply relishes being able to contribute to her clients' significant life moments.
"It's really rewarding, and for people who have a reason to celebrate, you are planning part of that celebration and it's really satisfying." ♦
Follow Pop Up Picnic Spokane on Facebook (@popuppicnicspokane), Instagram (@pop_up_picnic_spokane) and popuppicnicspokane.com.