Organizers have described as a “phenomenal success” the 4th annual Vincy Day U.S.A., a massive picnic last Saturday, primarily comprising Vincentian nationals, at Heckscher State Park in East Islip, Long Island.
Vincy Day U.S.A. Committee, the organizing group, said in a “Thank You” statement that 10,000-odd nationals and friends converged on the sprawling park’s picturesque campground for the spectacle.
“The day was a phenomenal success – from the beautiful weather to the wonderful spirit of our people coming together to peacefully fellowship,” the statement said.
Separately, Camille English-Darling, the group’s secretary, told Caribbean Life that “overall the event was a huge success.
“The parking lot was filled to capacity one hour earlier this year than last year; and a majority of cars already had their permits, which helped to make entrance more seamless,” she said.
Vincentians from all walks of life trekked, mainly by car and bus, from as far as Toronto, Canada and Miami, Fla for the extraordinary picnic.
“It’s a great experience to meet people I’ve not seen in a very long time,” said Sophia McKenzie-Bowman, picnicking with her husband, Charles Bowman, and Mr. Bowman’s elder brother, Lenford “Brother B” Bowman, and his wife, Sandra Roberts-Bowman.
“It looks like all the Vincentians are up here,” added McKenzie-Bowman, who resides in Passaic, North N.J. “It’ll come back and bring the rest of the family (next year),” who resides in Florida.
Roberts-Bowman said she was attending the picnic for the first time.
“You meet a lot of people,” she said, relaxing under a tent. “Everybody is together. I’m enjoying it, and I’ll come back again.”
Further up the campground, Cecelia Beach, a public school teacher in Brooklyn, gathered some members of Trinity Methodist Church on Eastern Parkway, near Utica Avenue, in Brooklyn, for a photo shoot.
“It’s a nice time for us to come together and fellowship with our brethren and sisters,” she said. “Most of the time, you see people (Vincentians) at funerals; and to come together like this is wonderful.”
Local gossip columnist and author Earl “Ole George” Daniel said he’d yearned to attend the spectacle in New York.
“Every year before, I couldn’t come because of work,” said Daniel, drinking sorrel beer. “I wanted to come here because I felt left out.
“Every year, it’s Canada, Canada, Canada (for the Vincy Unity Picnic in 1,000 Is., Ontario, Canada,” added Daniel, who travelled from Montreal, Canada. “So I brought a couple of friends, showcasing St. Vincent and the Grenadines. As many events you have showcasing St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it’s better for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Arlene Peters attended the picnic with close relatives for the second successive year.
“I love it!” exclaimed the Brooklyn resident. “It’s cool. You get to meet people you have not seen in years – people you went to school with. I’m enjoying it.”
Philadelphia resident Tracy Walker-Ince, an expectant mother, brought along her husband, Michael, and their five-year-old son, Aaron, as well as Walker-Ince’s mother, Pamela Mornix, vice president of the Brooklyn-based group Club St. Vincent.
“I’m feeling good,” said Walker-Ince, a nurse practitioner. “It’s the first time for me. It’s nice to be among family and friends.”
Brenda King travelled with nationals on one of two buses organized by the Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP).
“I liked it so much the first time that I decided to come a second time,” said the South N.J. resident. “It’s a good time for Vincentians to come together. I’m seeing people I’ve not seen in years. I like the camaraderie — everybody coming together.”
Local taxi driver Crispin “Trevor” Charles was a first-time picnic-goer.
“I look at it as a big opportunity for me, and friends and relatives,” said Charles, who was also visiting New York, with his wife, Thelma, and their daughter, Cristal, for the very first time.
“I’m seeing friends I’ve not seen in 20-30 years,” he added. “It’s a good opportunity for Vincentians to come together, and meet and discuss, and have fellowship.”
The picnic was a grand opportunity not only to feast on Vincentian delicacies and have fun but also to meet long-seen relatives and friends, and to establish alumni associations.
For instance, past students of the Petit Bordel Secondary School (PBSS) used the occasion — at the urging of Brooklyn-based ex-students Vanya Jones, a registered nurse, and Charles Thompson, a technical college mathematics lecturer — to launch the school’s past students’ association.
Ex-PBSS student Pamela Maloney, a U.S. Navy veteran, drove from Jacksonville, Fla with relatives and friends for the initiative.
“I had an amazing time at the Vincy Day Picnic,” she told Caribbean Life, as she headed back to the “Sunshine State.” “It was great seeing my old teachers and classmates. It’s been more than 30 years since I left St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but it was as if time stood still when we were together.”
The event also featured local gospel, soca and calypso artistes, as well as sporting activities, such as netball.
English-Darling said Vincy Day U.S.A. Committee, in two weeks, begins planning for the 5th annual event, “and we hope to review and work to make the next one even bigger and better.”