Thousands of Vincentian nationals in North America last Saturday converged on Heckscher State Park on Long Is. for the third Annual Vincy Unity Picnic.
The gathering – which attracted more than 5,000 nationals from all walks of life from major cities and towns in the U.S. and Canada, and even from St. Vincent and the Grenadines – was said to be even larger than the preceding years.
Nationals came by bus and cars from, among other places, Toronto; Washington, D.C.; Boston, Philadelphia; and Brooklyn for the spectacular get together.
“All you Vincentians, if you did not come, this will not be possible,” New York Consul General Selmon Walters, chair of the organizing committee, told the party crowd during a break in entertainment, from the assembled stage at the north eastern corner of the park’s camp grounds.
“Vincy U.S.A. is here to stay,” he exclaimed. “All who bring food, don’t carry them home. Share with everyone. Long live St. Vincent and the Grenadines, long live our people!”
Walters’ Toronto counterpart, Fitzgerald Huggins, said unity was paramount in nation-building.
“If we can put our ideas together, we can achieve more,” he said. “We’ve got to put our ideas together.
“I’ve got to ask you please to keep this unity together,” he added. “Let us build together.”
Laverne McDowald Thompson, president of the Brooklyn-based Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), the umbrella Vincentian group in the US, said she was grateful that nationals took time off to participate in the event.
“We’re grateful that you’ve made the sacrifice,” said McDowald-Thompson, who is also a member of the organizing committee. “Continue to enjoy this event. Continue to reach us.”
Ricardo “Puzzle” Grant, a tent manager and costume builder with SVG Players International, one of the leading mas bands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said he was attending the picnic for the very first time.
“I’m enjoying it,” said Grant, who is assisting the Brooklyn-based Mas Productions Unlimited, a Vincentian mas band owned by veteran mas producer, Wesley Millington, with its production for the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade, on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, on Labor Day Monday, Sept. 1, in a Caribbean Life interview.
“It’s important for us to interact, because we have a tendency to move away from one another, especially in a place like this (U.S.),” he added. “Some of the people I’m seeing today, I’ve not seen in years.”
Wayne John, a recently-retired civil servant in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said he was attending the third picnic, adding that he will not miss it for anything.
“Anywhere my people are, I’m here,” he said. “Unity is strength. It’s nice to see Vincentians come out in their numbers and share one common goal – unity.”
As she chatted up a storm with her old school mate, Ezekiel “Sports” Williams, Ave Browne-Swift, said it was just fitting to support Vincentians in the U.S., who, over the years, have been attending a similar picnic at Brown’s Bay Park in the 1,000 Is. area in Ontario, Canada.
“I came because they always come over (to Canada)”, said the Toronto-based Browne-Swift, who attended the picnic for the first time, accompanied by her husband, Dennis Swift. “I promised that I’ll come, and it’s good.”
“The service was real good on the bus,” chimed in Mr. Swift, eating from a plate of pelau. “I know it’ll (picnic) get bigger and bigger every year.”
Hanging out with Earl Horne and Sandra Millington, members of COSAGO, Joseph “Boa” McIntosh, drummer with Latinaires, the defunct popular Vincentian band of the early 1970’s, said he came by bus with members of the Boston-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Massachusetts (SVGAM).
“From what I’ve seen, it’s a nice gathering,” he said, disclosing that it was his first time attending the picnic. “Hope you guys will keep it peaceful.”
Nearby, Amelia Edwards, past SVGAM president, said it was her third trip.
“It’s getting better,” she said. “It’s always good to reconnect with people you haven’t seen in a while.”
Jasmine Andrews said she and some family members took the four-hour-long trek by car from Washington, D.C.
“This is my first time, and I’ll come again,” said the past president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Association of Washington, D.C., as she linked up with her compatriot Janet Wyllie. Both found the J & J Foundation to help needy children in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“This is a way to bring Vincentians together,” Andrews added.
Back at the entertainment stage, the newly-formed Friends of Sion Hill honored calypsonian and former Deputy New York Consul General, Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas, for his “outstanding contributions and service to the Vincentian community throughout the years.”
In accepting the Distinguished Community Service Award, Thomas told Friends of Sion Hill and the huge crowd: “I thank you very much, and I hope your unselfishness continues.”
The Vincy Unity Picnic also featured gospel, cultural, reggae and soca segments, as well as Digicel and Vincentian American Independent National Charities, Inc. (VINCI) giveaways.
“It is so wonderful to see so many Vincentians here, wearing their Vincy colors with such pride, celebrating and reconnecting with fellow Vincentians from New York and as far away as Canada,” Judge Sylvia Ash told Caribbean Life.
“I am especially pleased to see that there are so many young people present, because it means that the celebration of our heritage and culture will continue to pass on from generation to generation,” added the judge at Kings County (Brooklyn) Supreme Court.
For James Cordice, the mastermind behind St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the picnic was “nice, still nice.
“I’ll always be nice,” said the ex-president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP), who coordinated a busload of nationals from the “State of Brotherly Love.” “We just have to keep the young people occupied.”