Westchester teacher brings stylish picnics and sunshine to local parks and beaches

Jul 7, 2023

Some of Westchester resident Shannon Macedo’s best memories about growing up in SoCal are with her parents. As a kid, Shannon and her dad would spend summer days up at Will Rogers Park on the edge of the scenic Santa Monica Mountains.

“We’d ride horses and have picnics there all the time. That’s my special place,” she says fondly.

Shannon also lovingly recalls how her mother would mix her artistic style with her talent for entertaining.

“She always set tables and had parties with a theme when I was a kid. Still to this day, she creates elaborate settings with beautiful and creative centerpieces for holidays or her book club dinners,” says Shannon, who adds that at 86, her mom is still as spunky as ever.

Combining the love of the outdoors she got from her father with her mother’s flair for celebrations, Shannon decided to start her own business, Picnics and Sunshine.

Picnics and Sunshine is a side hustle for Shannon, a third-grade teacher at Westchester Lutheran. Born out of the pandemic, she got the idea for the business when it became clear that people felt safer and more at ease eating outdoors.

While Southern California typically has great weather for dining alfresco, its parks and beaches are surprisingly unequipped with comfortable, stylish or appetizing eating areas. That’s where Shannon comes in. 

With the help of her husband Mark and sometimes her son, Andy, Shannon creates elevated picnic experiences in the outdoor location of your choice. You choose your theme, color scheme and number of guests, and Shannon takes care of creating a Pinterest-worthy setup, so her clients can enjoy their special day.

“I set a full table! I’ve done weddings, baby showers, bridal parties, baby gender reveals, children’s parties and all sorts of things in backyards, beaches,

parks–wherever people want. Instead of just laying a blanket on the ground, I make it luxurious,” she says.

When it comes to selecting the perfect picnic table, the foundation of all the experiences she creates, Shannon is hands-on as well.

Thanks to the woodworking skills she learned from her adoring dad, she’s been making her own tables.

 “During the pandemic, we had a lot of free time, so I got a table saw and all those fun tools,” she says, adding there was a bit of trial and error in making an easily transportable design.

Eventually, she taught herself how to make ones with removable legs.

“Everything goes into my Prius–it’s amazing how much fits in this little car. It’s like Tetris. We have these wagons and just haul it in and then set it all up. Everyone has a lovely time and then we break it down,” she says.

Part of the luxury and high-end feel of the Picnics and Sunshine experience comes from using real dinnerware and flatware, including gorgeous ceramic plates, wine glasses and cloth napkins. Shannon also makes sure to bring a plethora of pillows and blankets to make people comfortable and add to the ambience.

The only thing not included are the meals, but if her clients order from a nearby eatery, she’s happy to pick it up, lay it out and even provide the necessary accoutrements from ice buckets to dessert towers.

As easy and picture-perfect as the picnic staging appears in the photos on her website, there are definitely challenges. While L.A. is known for its sunny weather, these past few months have been unusually rainy and windy—less than ideal circumstances for picnicking. 

“Valentine’s Day this year had horrible weather, and I had picnics every day that week,” she says.

One memorable setup on the beach had the wind howling and blowing sand in her face.

 “We were falling over sideways. I’m calling this guy who was inland where it wasn’t really that windy,” says Shannon. “He kept saying, ‘Could you please try?’ I had to take a video of the sand from ground level. I said, ‘Please watch this video. Look at the sand moving. I’m trying to tell you if I set it up, you will not have a good time.’ We ended finding them a little cove at a nearby park where they were protected from the wind and it all worked out.”

With a business that relies on creating a perfect setting while battling the elements, being able to think on your feet and creatively problem-solve are important traits.

Another challenge came when a bride asked Shannon to set up a picnic at Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach for a bridesmaid reveal party. To create a more scenic vibe, her client wanted the table set up near the pond where ducks and geese swim, which was supposed to create an idyllic backdrop. While having a picnic in a place where migratory birds make their home sure is beautiful, it has its downside, too.

“There was duck poop everywhere! My poor husband had to drive home and get a shovel. We were putting tarps down and trying to protect everything,” says Shannon. “I just didn’t want this poor girl to be kneeling or sitting and, well, you know. But it ended up beautiful.”

She shares that it’s important to have a sense of humor and always arrive at a location early–just in case. Her husband has now added rubber gloves to their emergency kit.

So far, her business ebbs and flows depending on holidays and the weather, but now that school’s out for summer and the sun is shining, things should be getting busy.

She says starting her own business has taught her a lot about herself.

“I’ve had to get out of my comfort zone, which has made me more outgoing and able to face my fear of talking to strangers. I’m proud that I’m doing this!” she says.

Another person who would be proud of Shannon is her dad. Though he’s only with her in spirit these days, she knows he’d love her business–and would have plenty of woodworking tips to share.

“He’d probably be telling me how to build the tables more efficiently,” she says with a laugh.

For more information on Picnics and Sunshine, visit picnicsandsunshine.com.

Story by Shanee Edwards. Photo by Zsuzsi Steiner.

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