For the seventh successive year, thousands of Vincentians from all walks of life on Saturday descended on Heckscher State Park in East Islip, Long Is. for the annual Vincy Day USA Picnic.
Nationals, friends and supporters from across the United States and Canada, and even from home, picnicked on the picturesque campgrounds in picture-perfect weather.
Thundershowers were forecasted for the pre-picnic hours and light showers for about mid-picnic, but these did not fully materialize.
The Heavens, however, opened up after the picnic concluded at 6 pm, when some picnic-goers were already on their way home, though many were still mingling in the expansive park.
There were food and drinks galore, as picnic-goers shared and feasted on mouth-watering Vincentian dishes — such as breadfruit and saltfish, blackfish, callaloo soup, pelau, souse and roasted corn — and washed them down with local drinks — mauby, ginger and sorrel beers, and Ju-C.
They also, among other things, renewed acquaintances, “ole talked” and partied before the huge stage on the eastern end of the mammoth grounds, where gospel, soca and reggae artistes mesmerized the crowd.
“It’s very, very delightful to see so many Vincentians coming together in one place,” said Brooklyn-based soca artiste Edson “Lively” McDowald, renowned for his master hit “Drinking.”
“I love it when we unite,” said McDowald, disclosing that his new soca song, “Take a Drinker,” is near completion.
Colin Gunsam, 16, and his mom, LaFleur Nanton — both of Murray’s Village, Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, were vacationing in Brooklyn.
“We come to the picnic almost every year,” Nanton said. “It’s nice that we can come together as one people. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Former police officer Ceyon Adams hanged out with friends from Sion Hill, Kingstown and Georgetown, the nation’s second largest town.
“The weather is nice, the breadfruit is here, everything is good, and everybody is happy,” said the Chateaubelair native and Brooklyn resident, sipping from a plastic glass.
Orton Guy, also a former police officer from Georgetown, intoned: “We want to keep this [picnic] going. This is like the cultural melting pot.”
Nearby, Oriel Creese, formerly from the village of Biabou, said she was stayed up late Saturday night, preparing dishes for her group, Biabou Methodist School Alumni.
“It’s a lot of hard work we put into it, which pays off,” she said, listing cow foot souse, callaloo soup, roast breadfruit and saltfish, among the menu. “This is where we see everyone we had not seen in years.”
Verdon Browne linked up with her former school mates at the Marriaqua Secondary School — Janet Wyllie and Sharon Ashton.
“There is good interaction,” said Registered Nurse Browne. “You meet old friends. It’s a very unified way to get Vincentians together.”
Wyllie said she attended the picnic from the inception.
“Usually, you don’t see people at other functions, but you see them here,” she said, noting that their alma mater is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
At the big stage, pre-eminent Vincentian gospel artiste Bridget Blucher, 2018 Ragga Soca and Road March King Fimba, and soca star Skinny Fabulous were among a number of artistes who convulsed the party crowd, evoking calls for encore.
“This is my first [Vincy Day USA] picnic, and I love it,” shouted the Florida-based Blucher from the stage after belching out some of her captivating hits, such as “Rivers of Babylon,” “God’s not Dead” and “Come Ley We Lift Up Jesus.”
“Ladies, if you don’t have a rag, take out yo’ weave [and wave],” she urged, as the crowd roared and kept jumping.
“I am in awe,” said Glenroy “Gobels” Phillips, a member of the organizing committee, formerly from Sion Hill, reacting to Blucher’s performance in a Caribbean Life interview. “She can carry the program. I have never seen a person take a crowd like this.”
Later, Fimba “brought the house down” with his ever-popular “Funky Business.” He was preceded by Skinny Fabulous and his militant “General.”
Earlier, Tourism, Culture and Sports Minister Cecil “Ces” McKie told picnic-goers that now, more than ever, is the time to invest in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Recognize these opportunities, mobilize yourself,” he urged. “We’re up in the USA to see if we can get more flights [from the Argyle International Airport] for you.
“We already have indication to have flights from American Airlines from December ,” he added. “With these flights from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, you now have a personal opportunity to invest in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
With Vincy unity picnics now in the 1,000 Is. area in Western Ontario, Canada, Orlando, Florida and New York, Joel Providence, managing director and chief executive officer of Coreas Hazells, Inc. in Kingstown, said it’s time for one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“We should come together at home,” he told Caribbean Life.
“You’re feeling the fellowship,” said Providence about the Vincy Day USA Picnic, attending it for the first time. “You don’t have to buy anything; the fellowship is wonderful.
“There’s a business opportunity for the private and public sectors to promote tourism in a major way,” he continued.