For the eighth successive year, thousands of Vincentians from all walks of life – trekking from as far as Toronto in Canada, Miami in Florida, and even from the homeland — converged on Heckscher State Park in East Islip, Long Is., a New York City suburb, for the grand Vincy Day USA picnic.
Busloads and carloads of Vincentian and other Caribbean nationals made the annual pilgrimage to feast, drink, ‘ole talk’, renew acquaintances and friendships, dance and have just plain fun at the event described by organizers as “another epic year.”
“From all reports from the patrons in attendance, it was another great family fun day,” Raymond O. “Otis” Lewis, the newly-elected chairman of the Brooklyn-based Vincy Day USA, Inc. Committee told Caribbean Life. “Every year, we try to gauge our attendance, and it’s proving more and more difficult by the sheer number of persons in attendance and vehicles parked in the lots.
“This year proved to be another epic year with it being one of the biggest crowds we’ve had at Heckscher State Park,” added the Brooklyn resident, declining to estimate the crowd. Many picnic-goers, however, said it was well over 10,000.
“Everyone I encountered was very happy and supportive, and conveyed their best wishes and support for continued success and longevity for Vincy Day Family Fun Day,” continued Lewis, who said he also spent “quite a bit of time” with park and law enforcement officials “to ensure that we were in good standing and not facing any issues.
“Their response was nothing more than glowing reviews for Vincy Day and the patrons who attended,” he said. “That, in itself, is what makes having this family fun day such a worthwhile venture. It makes me a proud Vincentian to hear our people spoken of with so much admiration.”
Osborne Browne, a former vice president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Cricket Association, and his wife Jacqueline, a retired senior education officer at home, make the trip every year.
The Browne’s hang out with former Consul General to New York Cosmus Cozier, his wife Caroline; and Cozier’s erstwhile deputy Cyril “Scorcher” Thompson, also a calypsonian, and Thomas’s “lady” Arlene DeRoche.
“It’s (Vincy Day USA) a melting pot,” Browne said. “I always say it’s a great idea. You get to see people you have not seen in years.”
“It’s a good melting pot, a socio-cultural event,” Mrs. Browne chimed in. “It’s such a good gathering.”
Thomas said “it’s a good coming-together. The old mixes with the young.
“It brings a whole generation together,” he said. “You see people you have not seen in years. I look forward to this gathering.”
Cozier said, in the next five years, “I look forward to a lot of Canadian buses coming down, just as we (Vincentians in New York) go up there (for the annual Vincy Unity Day at Brown’s Bay Park in the 1,000 Is. area in Western Ontario).”
Cecil “Blazer” Williams, a preeminent Vincentian cultural figure and lawyer, attended the picnic for the third time. He did not attend last year.
“It’s great,” said Williams, who travelled to the picnic on a bus from Brooklyn, organized by the Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), the umbrella Vincentian group in the US. “It’s something fantastic for Vincentians.
“It’s one way of keeping people together and strengthening the ties in the Diaspora,” he added. “And I hope this will lead to more tangible things. I always toy with the idea of a Vincentian cultural center in New York – a home.”
Brooklyn residents Crispin and Ancilla Friday also rode the COSAGO bus, and brought along their daughters, Christine and Krisann, and Krisann’s 11-month-old daughter, Zylah.
“We’re passing on a history and legacy,” Mrs. Friday said. “We need to do one (Vincy Day picnic) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We need to show unity. We need to plan a National Unity Day in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Nearby, Cecelia Sam-Horne, her sister Rochelle Sam, and their friends Shanty Samuels and Natasha Jackson “hanged” together.
“I’m very happy,” said Sam-Horne, attending the picnic for the second time. “You meet people you have not seen in years.”
“It’s actually a very good experience,” said Jackson about her debut attendance, eating pelau. “I have not seen so many people in years – old friends, old school mates.”
Junior Brewster, of South Rivers in the North Central Windward Constituency in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was busy barbecuing chicken, pork and hot dogs, and roasting breadfruit on a small grill.
“Growing up, as a young man, I enjoyed Labor Day (the annual West Indian American Day Carnival Parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway), but my favorite day in the world is Vincy Day,” he said. “I bring everybody to enjoy Vincy Day.”
At the main stage, on the far eastern corner of the expansive, picturesque park, Vincentian gospel, soca, calypso and reggae artistes entertained the massive crowd.
Evangelist Bridgette Blucher, as well as evangelist LaFleur Durrant, Esworth Quammie, Brigo and the Hills family were on hand, enrapturing gospel buffs.
Among the soca, calypso and reggae artistes were former calypso monarch D Man Age, Dennis Bowman, Field Marshall, Hilford Hurst, Hibuscus, Curtis C and Fimba.
Fimba, the 2018 Road March winner in Vincy Mas, brought down the house with his signature “Mind Yo Funky Business.”
“It’s really a good initiative,” said Colin John, Commissioner of Police in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, attending the picnic for the third time, flanked by, among others, Deon Henry, the Deputy Coast Guard Commander in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “You meet a lot of people you have not met in a long time.”