Tens of thousands of Vincentians converged on the massive Brown’s Bay Park in the 1,000 Is. area in Ontario, Canada on Saturday for the annual Vincy Unity Picnic.
A kaleidoscope of colors, a potpourri of mouth-watering Vincentian delicacies, hypnotic Vincy and Caribbean soca vibes, gyrating hips, and nice pleasantries and camaraderie, among others, were the order of the day that started under a thick, heavy cloud and ended under very pleasant sunshine.
As usual, bus- and car-loads of nationals trekked from major cities in North America – New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, among others – for the annual spectacle that has been described as arguably the largest picnic comprising Caribbean nationals in the Diaspora.
Nationals even came from home and the Caribbean to be part of the extravaganza, which, over the years, has attracted a large number of non-Vincentians, such as Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Grenadians and native Canadians.
“It’s a nice gathering, it’s unifying,” Rudy Dos Santos, who attended the picnic for the very first time, accompanied by his niece and Brooklyn resident Donna Ash, who, too, attended the event for the first time, in a Caribbean Life interview.
“I’ve met cousins who I’ve not seen for 20-30 years,” added Dos Santos, who’s vacating with his children in Montreal. “It’s impressive. It shows camaraderie. I wish we can see more of this at home.”
“So far so good,” intoned Ash, who came on one of four buses organized by the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO). The Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP) also organized a bus-load of nationals.
“I’ve seen people I’ve never seen in years,” added Ash, hastening her uncle to meet and greet other relatives and friends.
A few years away, Philadelphia residents and members of SVGOP – Patsy Cuffy-Philip, Yvonne O’Garro and Jackie Williams – describing themselves as the “Phillie Possé”, said they were having a time of their lives.
“I love it,” said Cuffy-Philip, disclosing that she was attending the picnic for the fifth year. “This is amazing.”
“We’re proud to be Vincentians and to carry on our culture,” added Williams.
Attending his seventh picnic, Steve Fredericks said he was very pleased with the picnic organization – coordinated by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines associations of Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.
Fredericks and his wife were also a fixture at the party scene, getting down to the hypnotic sounds of top Vincy DJ in Brooklyn, Supa Eyes.
“It’s great,” said Fredericks, flanked also by Colicia Hercules, Agnes Alexander, and Vibert and Allison Phillips.
“They’ve been polishing up in many areas in which they’ve been lacking,” added Fredericks, referring to COSAGO, whose members and volunteers prepared delicacies for patrons.
“One word to describe the picnic – awesome!” said Mrs. Phillips, a former teacher at home, who, too, was attending the picnic for the first time. “It’s very peaceful. You feel a lot of love.”
June Cruickshank-Joseph, a founding member of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Massachusetts, hung out with her daughter, Nicole Joseph, and village friend Paula King-Pompey, who resides in Toronto.
“The crowd is good,” said Cruickshank-Joseph, whose children had attended the picnic since the 1980s. “It’s nice to have a Vincy Day. It’s the first event where I see so many Vincy people.”
“As a chef, it’s good to move around and taste so many dishes,” Nicole chimed in. “Everybody is open, and open to sharing. That’s where you feel the family vibes.”
“It’s part of our culture,” added King-Pompey.
Chilling out with Mikie Joseph, Dennis Laidlow, who resides in Toronto, simply said: “Beautiful! Wonderful day!”
Over at the main stage, at the center of the humongous park, a host of Vincy artistes and dancers entertained the party crowd.
They included IKonnection Gospel Band, singer Barrett Brackin, Lively, Wiseguy, Curty Banton, Royale, Madskull, and dancers Xhauan Hutchinson and Elaney Bentick.
“As usual, it’s fantastic, dynamic,” said Alfred “Jack” Dear, president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Montreal, whose group this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary, about the picnic.
“It’s bigger and better,” Dear added. “The weather was threatening, but it’s better now with the sun.”
“Thank you for coming back to our home,” said Steve Clarke, Member of the Provincial Parliament for Leads-Grenville, which encompasses the area, in official remarks.
“You’re going to bring some Vincy-style fun,” he added. “We want to bring you back every year.”
The organizers honored legendary Vincentian saxophonist Syl McIntosh, who said he began playing music at 10.
“This is surely a very beautiful plaque,” said the Toronto resident after receiving the award from St. Vincent and the Grenadines Counsel General to Canada Fitz Huggins.
“I feel very good,” McIntosh later told Caribbean Life tersely.
Further away, COSAGO and SVGOP awarded prizes for lucky winners in a raffle to help support Vincentian athletes in the annual Penn Relays in Philadelphia.
“This is a very beautiful thing,” said James Cordice, coordinator and initiator of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the Penn Relays. “Hopefully, we’ll have another Usain Bolt (Jamaican-born Olympic gold medalist) coming out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We thank you for your support. This is a very valuable mission.”
O’Brien Simmons and Laverne McDowald-Thompson, COSAGO’s treasurer and president, respectively, were equally grateful not only for supporting the Penn Relays initiative but also for the overwhelming outpouring of Vincentians at the Unity Picnic.
“We’ve very appreciative of everything you do,” said Simmons, coordinator of COSAGO bus trip. “What you do is not just for COSAGO but for the Vincentian community.”
“We couldn’t do this without you,” McDowald-Thompson said. “I want to thank the organizations at large.”
“This is a valuable event for St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” added Lorenzo DeCaul, SVGOP president.
Vincentians in the Diaspora now look forward to another grand unity picnic, on Sat, Aug. 15, in Long Island.