St. Vincent and Grenadines Association of Toronto

History of the SVG Unity Picnic

by Gideon Exeter

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Unity Picnic, also called Vincy Unity Picnic is coordinated by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Associations of Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. It started many years ago with a few folks from the three organizations gathering at Brown's Bay Provincial Park in the 1000 Islands area of Ontario. The venue is one of the largest parks in the vicinity to serve the three communities. The driving time from Toronto is approximately 3 hours, from Montreal is about two hours and one and a half hours from Ottawa.

Although it was always held in either June or July, it wasn't until in 2004 that it was decided to make it take place on a specific day in order to allow folks to plan for it well in advance. It is now held on the third Saturday of July.

The event has grown over the years from just a few folks to an attendance of over 15,000 persons making it one of the largest picnics of its kind in Canada. It is by far the busiest day for the personnel working at that facility, a great opportunity for them to increase their parking receipts. People travel from great distances to join in the fun and get the opportunity to meet old friends and acquaintances. Many reunions are organised to take place at the Vincy Unity Picnic.

A committee of volunteers consisting of two persons from each of the three associations manage the details of the picnic. Obviously, they are assisted by a network of other volunteers on the day of the picnic. A lot of work is however done behind the scenes as the committee meets with the Parks officials, security personnel, the police, life-guards, entertainers, sponsors and vendors.

Due to the large attendance the event provides a great opportunity for businesses to showcase their products and services. The committee has however taken great care not to overwhelm the setting with too much commercial. A few companies including Jamaica National Money Services, Western Union Financial Services, KLC Freight Services and Maison De Beaute Doreen that serve our community have been regular supporters of the event. There are also some small entrepreneurs who use the occasion to display their artwork.

Although most families bring along their picnic baskets some are taking the easy way out by purchasing their meals and snacks from a small number of providers. The spirit of sharing and making it feel like a true Caribbean experience has folks sampling food from each other.

Vincy Unity Picnic has become the family event to be in the summer. Scores of Vincentians from near and far now mark the third Saturday of July as one of their events to attend on their calendars. Groups from New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Maryland, Boston and as far away as Florida make a holiday of coming to Canada to attend the Vincy Picnic. It is quite obvious though that attendees are not only Vincies. Other Caribbean nationals who came along with friends and relatives for the experience do not want to miss this massive and friendly get-together.

Join us this year on Saturday, July 17 to make it an experience you will never forget. If you cannot make it then please mark the third Saturday of July on your annual calendars so that you do not miss it in future years.

Let's keep a good thing going.

The photos included in this article were taken by Mr. Jack Dear of the Montreal Association. More of his photos on the picnic can be seen the websites of the three associations.

 

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