Thousands of Vincentians on Saturday trekked from as far as Toronto, Canada and Florida for the fifth annual Vincy Day USA at Heckscher State Park in East Islip, L.I.
They flew, took trains and buses, and drove their automobiles or SUVs to the picturesque park, located about an hour’s drive from Brooklyn, regarded as the hub of the Vincentian community in the United States.
In wide-ranging interviews with Caribbean Life, nationals said it was sanguine that they came together, with love, in the interest of nationhood.
“It’s good to bring Vincentians together,” said Violet DeRoche, feasting on a plate of souse, rice and peas, macaroni pie and stewed pork.
DeRoche, who did most of the cooking, with Shernelle Ottley, of Villa, for the relatively new, Brooklyn-based group La Feters, said it was time that Vincentians harmonize their relationships.
“We need to cooperate, stay together and hear each and everyone out,” she said. “St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a beautiful place. We’ve strayed away from each other, and we need to get back where we were.”
As he gathered his members for a photo opportunity, DeRoche’s son, Jarvis, who heads La Feters, said the group has been attending the picnic for the past three years.
“Every year, we look forward to this,” said Jarvis, who was born in Brooklyn to a Petit Martinique father, Mathias DeRoche.
Nearby, Gregory Antoine barbecued chicken legs and pork on an open grill.
“I’ve been coming here for five years now,” said Antoine, flanked by family members and nationals from his hometown, Layou, and neighboring town, Barrouallie. “I feel good.”
Samuel Ottley journeyed from Hollywood, Fl with his wife, Jennifer.
“I am seeing people whom I’ve not seen in 40 years,” said Ottley, attending the unity picnic for the very first time.
A few yards away, Tammy Kirby sat with her daughter, Ariel Graham, 13.
“It has grown bigger every year,” said Kirby, referring to the massive picnic. “I’m seeing people I have not seen in years – people from England, Canada and different parts of New York.
“It’s a good cause,” she added. “We come together as Vincentians, sharing love, reminiscing about childhood, and sharing different views about other things going on in the country.”
Friends Celita Dixon and Oriel Frederick-Creese sat on collapsible chairs in the center of the expansive park.
“For me, I don’t want to miss it for the whole world,” said Dixon, who has been attending the picnic from its inception.
Frederick-Creese chimed in: “I’m seeing people I have not seen in a very, very long time, and you can walk and get food from everyone.
“It’s nice to see Vincentians from different places coming together,” said Frederick-Creese, who attended the extravaganza with members of the Biabou Methodist School Alumni Association. “I had two other places to go, but I chose to come here.”
Amid the gaiety, Margaret London, a popular New Democratic Party (NDP) radio activist in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, joined members of the Brooklyn-based Vincy Liberators, wearing a T-shirt with that name.
“It’s a brilliant idea,” said London, attending Vincy Day USA for the very first time. “It’s good to see so many Vincentians from all walks of life in one place, showing unity and love, and peace.”
After sharing Vincy delicacies with her compatriots, Joy Parsons-Wiseman, an ardent incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP) supporter, danced to soca vibes emanating from the gigantic stage on the eastern end of the park.
Tina Matthews travelled by bus for 12 hours, from Raleigh, N.C. to attend the get-together.
“It’s good,” said Matthews, who was also attending the picnic for the first time, disclosing that her mom, a Brooklyn resident, had “begged” her to attend the event. “I’m seeing people I have not seen since I came from St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1992.”
Her cousin, Mylene Matthews also trekked from Charlotte, N.C.
“I only missed last year because I had to work,” she said. “I always have an awesome time.
“I represent St. Vincent and the Grenadines everywhere,” Mylene added. “We (she and Tina) were in St. Louis (Mo) with the soccer team (SVG) last November [when the team opposed the United States].”
A plethora of Vincentian religious, soca, calypso and reggae artistes, and cultural figures and performers entertained the massive party crowd, backed up DJ music and the Solid Band, at the far eastern end of the grounds.
They comprised, among others, Dennis Bowman, Winston Soso, Patrick Junior, Royal, Bomani, Candy Girls and Mas Productions Unlimited.