Thousands of Vincentians from all walks of life on Saturday converged on Heckscher State Park in East Islip, LI. for the annual Vincy Day USA Picnic.
Nationals, friends and supporters from across the United States and Canada, and even from home, descended on the picturesque campgrounds, in picture-perfect weather, for the 6th annual family day.
Picnic-goers feasted on mouth-watering Vincentian delicacies — 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 a host of other things, renewed acquaintances, “old talked” and partied before the huge stage on the eastern end of the mammoth grounds, where soca and reggae artistes entertained the crowd.
“We feel at home, we feel welcomed, we’ll come again,” said Millicent “Millie” Johnson, sitting at a table with her sisters, Frances and Althea, in a Caribbean Life interview. The Johnson sisters — all Georgetown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines natives and Brooklyn residents – attended the picnic for the very first time.
“It’s good to see so many people,” chimed in Althea. “It’s really nice.”
Frances agreed: “It’s beautiful. I’ll love to come again.”
Olson Thomas, also a Georgetown native and president of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Humanitarian Organization, said the most important thing to him was meeting friends he had not seen in “donkey years.”
“The weather today is beautiful,” said Thomas, a retired public and private school teacher in Brooklyn, and former head teacher of the Union Methodist School at home, who attended the picnic for the 4th consecutive year. “This is nice. We’re enjoying it.”
Audrey Horne, of Georgetown, Silvern Hackshaw, of South Rivers, Joyce James, of Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, and Ann White, of Troumaca, feasted on pelau a short distance from the central stage.
“It’s the best thing for the closing of the summer, and we look forward to it,” said Hackshaw, stressing that she is a “true, true Vincy.”
“It just come here to relax and to see people I’ve not seen in a very long time,” Horne added.
Allison Vincent, of Belair, came from home to be part of the Vincy get-together.
“I’ve heard and read about it in papers, and it’s nice,” said Vincent, attending the picnic for the first time, as family friend, Ron John, of Mesopotamia, barbecued chicken on a small grill. “The atmosphere is good.”
Clyde Griffith, of Byera, brought along his Jamaican friend, who wanted to be identified only as “G.”
“It’s very good, love it!” exclaimed Griffith, barbecuing chicken and pork on a grill, who lives on Union Street in Brooklyn. “The unity, my Vincentian people in one place, the togetherness — it’s a beautiful thing.”
Calbert Pierre, of Chateaubelair, hang out with his girlfriend, Shelly King, of Belair, and his daughter, Shirley John, of Prospects.
“It’s a good thing,” they said, in unison, about the picnic. “You re-acquaint with friends you have not seen in a long time. It’s a good outing.”
The James cousins, of South Rivers — Cheryl, Daphne and Lana — shared their meals and drinks, as most picnicgoers, with passersby.
“It’s good that Vincentians get together once a year for this special event, which we’re so proud of,” said Daphne, a registered nurse at St. Luke-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, serving as the unofficial spokesperson for the family. “Nice to see everybody together, drinking, having fun. “It’s a beautiful day, and we love the spirit of unity and togetherness.”
James Cordice, the former president of the Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania, Inc. (SVGOP), said two bus-loads of nationals trekked from Pennsylvania.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea to have his gathering,” said Cordice, the Clare Valley-born architect of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the annual Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, before helping to serve rice and peas and other delicacies. “I think it’s a good idea to bring Vincentians together, especially the young.”
Nearby, Lorenzo DeCaul, also a former SVGOP president, who hails from Biabou, “shoot the breeze” with his homeboys, Donald Jacobs and Lennox Daniel, a former St. Vincent and the Grenadines Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations.
“It’s good to see people you have not seen for so long in an atmosphere that’s friendly and loving,” said DeCaul, sipping a drink from a plastic glass. “This is truly what Vincentians are — loving, peaceful. You can’t beat us.”
As the initial vice chair of the Vincy Day USA Organizing Committee, Daniel said he had predicted that the picnic would “expand beyond everyone’s expectations.
“Vincentians get the opportunity to display a variety of Vincentian dishes, including my favorite breadfruit and bowljowel [saltfish mixed with onions, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and other ingredients],” he said. “It’s always an opportunity to meet new friends within St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the wider Caribbean Community.”
Daniel met Olton Olliver, of Barrouallie, director of Site Engineering with New York City Department of Design and Construction, for the first time.
“I support it [picnic] because it promotes togetherness among Vincentians,” said the South Ozone Park, Queens resident. “This is the only time when I have the opportunity to be among a large amount of Vincentians.”
Marlene Alves, of Bequia, said she was able to reconnect with a high school classmate after over a decade.
“It’s like rejuvenation,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll get to have a soiree in the near future.”
Crispin and Ancilla Friday brought along their two daughters, Christine and Krisann.
“It’s a loving atmosphere, there’s no animosity,” said Ancilla, who hails from Ratho Mill. “When you come to New York, everybody is together. Everybody lets their arms down in peace and unity.”
“It’s a homogenous feeling,” added Crispin, a former Beachmont, Kingstown resident, who traces his roots to Bequia. “I’ll like this togetherness to transfer to back home. There’s no politics in it [Vincy Day USA Picnic].”
Junior Hewitt, president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Massachusetts, said two busloads of nationals came from Massachusetts.
“We all feel good coming down [to the picnic],” said the Sion Hill, Kingstown native, flanked by his wife, Ann, of Dorcestershire Hill, Kingstown, and other members of the group. “We’re glad we got lots of people to come down, and we’re looking forward to having more people come next year.