PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

METHUEN — Fried chicken, big-band music and politics were the main items on the menu at the 21st annual Senior Picnic at the Methuen Senior Center.

Political candidates — including state rep hopefuls Michael Hennessy, Linda Dean Campbell and Chris DiBella — courted those in attendance at the Aug. 22 event, talking to each person while making their attendance known. They are all running for the seat that will be vacated by Arthur Broadhurst, also at the picnic, who’s running for register of deeds.

Sen. Steven Baddour, who is running unopposed for re-election, and former Sen. Jim Jajuga were also in a attendance. They handed out pamphlets endorsing Tom Reilly for governor. Baddour also gave everyone a note pad with his name on the top of it, especially the nuns from Presentation of Mary.

“I need divine intervention,” Baddour joked.

State Rep. Barbara L’Italien made an appearance towards the end, letting those in attendance know her choice for governor is Deval Patrick, which was met with good-natured boos by Baddour, Jajuga and Methuen Mayor William Manzi.

The politicians didn’t come empty-handed, either. Most of them donated scratch tickets to the end-of-the meal raffle, which included gift certificates to Victorian Park, Denny’s and Market Basket.

But regardless of the political atmosphere –even the tables were decorated with the patriotic colors of red, white and blue — the seniors had fun and treated each politician like a celebrity.

Kentucky Fried Chicken on Broadway in Salem served 230 meals in 25 minutes at the picnic. Store manager Mohammed Zellou said donating the time to be there was well worth it.

“We find joy making them smile. It feels great to see them smile,” Zellou said. “We’ve been doing this for five or six years now and we look forward to it every year.”

Zellou added that when some of the seniors go into his store, they always tell him what a great time they had at the picnic.

After the meal and raffle, most of the seniors got up and started dancing around the room.

Chet Harnden 86, of Andover provided the music, something he’s been doing for the past 53 years.

“I play just about everywhere but my hometown,” Harnden said. “They’re not as active there as they are in other communities. I’ve been coming to Methuen for 19 years now.”

Harnden played in his first band when he was in the Air Force during World War II.

“Funny thing is, I just got my WWII Medals in the mail,” Harnden said. “After all these years, I finally got them.”

Susan Foster, activities coordinator for the Senior Center, said she can always tell the seniors are having a good time just by the looks on their faces.

“Just look at them. They are laughing and smiling,” Foster said. “Even if they don’t dance, I know they’re having fun.”

Have a story idea? Contact Gayle Simone at 978-970-4838 or by e-mail at gsimone@thevalleydispatch.com.