Spike got back from the Crystal Empire in time to join us at the town picnic event. I went down to the train station to pick him up. He looked pretty tired when he arrived so it was no surprise when he flopped down on our picnic blanket and fell asleep. Pinkie and Rainbow Dash had already picked out a spot for us near the grandstand and they took off as soon as we arrived. There were ponies everywhere scouting about for a flat spot with a view and the field about me was filling up fast with picnic blankets. Fortunately, Rarity and Fluttershy arrived soon after I'd spread my blanket and I didn't have to explain to anypony why I was taking up so much space. Rarity had Applejack's blanket as well as her own. Applejack was already setting up her beverages at the contest area in a part of the pasture reserved for most of activities that Mayor Mare had promised us. From our picnic blanket, we could wave to Applejack and see Pinkie too as she unpacked a cart laden with sparkling rock candy. We couldn't see Rainbow Dash anywhere, she was probably suiting up with her Wonderbolt cohorts.
I was starting to get hungry, so I opened my picnic basket. The picnic I'd packed was utilitarian. With Spike out of town, I didn't embark on any fancy preparations. Hay chips, carrot sticks, some hay, peppermint tea, a few cupcakes. La haute gastronomie. I swapped a few bites with Rarity and Fluttershy. Spike woke up long enough to eat a few of the gems that the Crystal Empire fireworks organizers had given him as a thank you. We had Pinkie and Dash's baskets too, but we resisted the temptation to see what they contained.
By now the East Pasture was pretty full of picnicking ponies, all riding cloth rafts in the sea of grass. Pinkie bounded in, gave each of us a rock candy necklace and proceeded to dump out the contents of her basket into the mix that was what Rarity, Fluttershy and I had brought to eat. Downslope from us, Mayor Mare climbed up onto the bandstand, unfurled a Picnic In The Fields banner, recapped all the events that were in store today and declared the picnic begun. The stomping applause, muted since we were all standing on blankets on grass, was the cue for the Wonderbolts' precision flying routine. When that was over, we remembered we had food to eat and down on the bandstand, the Ponytones began to sing. Pinkie had bounded back to her rock candy stand to make sure everpony had enough string and to replenish candy where she could. Rainbow Dash had still not returned, but as the Ponytones sang, I noticed several pegasi pulling a bunch of clouds to somewhere by the edge of the picnic area. Rainbow Dash was with them and I could see that they were sculpting the clouds into an obstacle course. I'd wondered how winged ponies were going to compete in the steeple chase. Jumping over the ditches, hay bales and fences is just too easy with a few wing beats.
After the concert, Mayor Mare announced the winners for the beverage contest. Zecora got a blue ribbon in the hot category, Applejack won in the juice category, and two other ponies got top honors in the slurry and cold categories. None of us had gone down to try the drinks, there were just too many ponies there already. Applejack and Zecora, their blue ribbons tied to their manes and picnic baskets in their mouths, made their way up the hill to join us. They'd barely taken a few mouthfuls of hay when Mayor Mare announced the sporting events: the six legged races, the steeplechase (ground then aerial) and the round robin netball tournament. Applejack, as the local rodeo champion, was one of the judges for the ground event. She told us that Rainbow Dash was on the panel for the aerial event, so we wouldn't see her until that was over. We packed a light lunch in a saddlebag for Applejack and wished her luck. Then we toasted her after she had trotted off by eating the apple pie she had brought to the picnic.
Pinkie came back and we watched all the sporting events while we polished off all the food. Mayor Mare awarded more blue ribbons and Rainbow Dash and Applejack came back from their stint at judging. Pinkie had rock candy necklaces for them, but otherwise, there was nothing to eat. So I invited everypony to the castle for supper. We fixed up a hot meal and took it out to the balcony overlooking the East Pasture. Apart from a few games of netball, most everypony had collected their things and gone home for supper. As Celestia lowered the sun, ponies were returning to watch the last event, the fireworks. We could just see Mayor Mare on the bandstand, addressing the crowds one last time, but we were too far to hear her. Then darkness fell and fireworks bloomed in the sky.