The annual Vincy Unity Picnic at Brown’s Bay Provincial Park in the 1,000 Islands area in eastern Ontario, Canada, continues to burst at its seams, as thousands of nationals descended on the picturesque site on Saturday, July 21 for the massive extravaganza.
More than 20,000 nationals trekked from major cities in North America – including Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, New York, Philadelphia and Boston – throughout the Caribbean and the Diaspora, and even from home to participate in the spectacle.
In picture-perfect weather, they dined, drank, chilled, “ole-talked,” gyrated to hypnotic soca vibes, and just had plain fun at the expansive park bordering the St. Lawrence River.
Amid the gaiety, nationals devoted time in expressing their sentiments to Caribbean Life, proclaiming generally and unapologetically that they were having a time of their life.
“It’s very inspiring,” said Clem Hewitt, who drove from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, with his son Nigel.
“I love the atmosphere,” added Hewitt, enjoying his fourth 1,000 Is. picnic. “I get to see a lot of people I have not seen in years. It’s very heart-warming.”
Sisters Annie, Maude and Lena Kidd, said the picnic provides a great opportunity to unwind from the hustle and bustle of daily living.
“It’s my first time coming, but it wouldn’t be the last one – while I’m alive,” said Annie, who, with her siblings, was among four busloads of compatriots, who undertook the 10-hour journey from Brooklyn, organized by the umbrella Vincentian group Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO).
“I kept hearing about it (picnic), but I never knew the culture behind it,” chimed in Lena. “I’ll be back next year.”
A busload of nationals from Pennsylvania had also undertaken the trek, organized by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVOP).
For the second successive year, COSAGO and SVOP collaborated in providing meals, hotel accommodation and other activities for picnic-goers.
The groups also used the occasion to raise funds for the nation’s participation next spring in the annual Penn Relays in Philadelphia by raffling a large flat-screen TV, among other prizes.
“I always look forward to meeting all these Vincentians,” said Brooklyn resident Sonia Thompson, who brought along her son Alex, for the fourth time, on the COSAGO-SVOP excursion. “This is a cultural thing.”
As popular Brooklyn DJ, Supa Eyes, struck up the latest hits from Vincy Mas 2012, Marva Boucher, Decima Lewis, Alana James, Carlita Jack and Petula Quammie formed a semi-circle, getting down to the rhythms.
Over at the large entertainment stage, in the middle of the park, several entertainers – soca, reggae, carnival and gospel artistes – kept the crowd bubbling.
Montreal-based soca diva Suzie Q told patrons “Don’t Blame It on the Woman,” while reggae artist Justice, a Paul’s Avenue native, also residing in Montreal, provided much variety.
Other entertainers were Toronto-based Kim Arthur and Fiyah Flamze Unit; LaFleur Durrant; Tropiks Band, featuring Spade, Mitche, Rax X and Fabian and Storm; Tru Dynasty Costume Band, portraying “The Best of Both Worlds;” and gospel artistes Montreal-based Zina Edwards, featured artiste in SVG’s 2012 Gospel Fest, and the award-winning, international gospel diva, Bridgette Blucher.
New York Consul General Selmon Walters, a former government minister, also took the opportunity to appeal to nationals to support construction of the Argyle International Airport.
“I’m making a special appeal to all Vincies today to make a contribution to the airport,” he said. “It may be $5, $10, contribute it.”
Walters noted that the Friends of Argyle International Airport in New York have just handed over US$10,000.00 towards the construction of the airport, “which we believe, at the end of 2014, every Vincentian will be able to fly directly to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Laverne McDowald-Thompson, COSAGO’s president, said Vincentian unity is very paramount.
“I feel these kinds of events are well worth it,” she said.
“It’s always a good way to stay in touch with our people,” she added. “For us, as an organization, we’re happy we’re able to work with our people. The spirit and effort are well-needed.”