|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 48 - Friday September 12, 2003
|Must Attend Dominican Picnic |
by Catherina Cheryl Allan
Its simple beginnings was not synchronized and did not cater for 300 people. It did not require an events planner and definitely was not the “Must Attend Dominica Picnic” that it has turned out to be. Instead, it started with one individual from one family, from one village who wanted to play a simple game of Rounders, the way it used to be “back home.”
The picnics started about 20 years ago, when Ella “Brune” Lawrence who lived in New Jersey at the time would telephone members of her large family to play Rounders in the park. I had the pleasure of speaking to Ella, who traveled from the US Virgin Islands to see what her little idea had blossomed into.
“It all started because I was bored” she said, “I wanted to get out there and do something, so I invited my family to play Rounders with me in the park. I have a large family here in New Jersey, so the guys would play Rounders against the girls. I am so pleased to see what it has evolved to be.”
It started with members of the Bruney family originally from Laplaine and soon grew to include family and friends. The numbers dwindled as the years went by and by the time Ella relocated to the U.S. Virgin Island, the picnic was no more. It was about 4 years ago, when someone suggested, “Why don’t we have a Rounders?” that the picnics started again. This picnic used to be called the Laplaine Picnic, but it has evolved to be a Must Attend Dominican picnic.
According to one of this years’ organizers: “The first year there were less than 100 people and they all came from New Jersey and they were mainly folks from LaPlaine; by the second year, they were traveling from Maryland, New York, by the third year, we had Dominicans from Boston, Virginia and Connecticut along with the same folks who had attended the previous years.
By the fourth year, the attendees had traveled from much further. They had traveled by car, by airplane, and by train, from Florida, Texas, Chicago, Montreal, The Virgin Islands in addition to almost all the states in the Continental US to attend”.
I had missed this picnic for 3 years in a row. After hearing so much about it, I was determined not to miss another one so when I realized that my vacation plans would have me visiting California instead of New Jersey where the annual picnic is held, I immediately rescheduled and I did not regret my decision.
By Saturday morning, July 19, 2003, all systems were “go.” Food, drinks and money for the picnic was donated by Dominican families in New Jersey with the Evolution Band entertaining the crowd with live Dominican music. The weather cooperated and with the blue skies and green trees in the background, that are so characteristic of a beautiful summer day, Colonial Park in New Jersey provided a perfect setting for the Dominicans meet and greet, eat, dance and frolic in pure enjoyment.
It was a wonderful day. Everyone was in high spirits. I met people from all over Dominica, Colihaut, Grandbay, St. Joseph, Delices, Marigot, Mahaut and Laplaine among others. They came from all walks of life, young and old, teachers, doctors, carpenters, policemen, clerks, farmers, technicians, mechanics were all represented there that day.
I personally greeted “Teacher Agnes”, my pre-school teacher, “Teacher Esther”, my primary School teacher and my high school Science teacher. Everyone in that park experienced an amazing outpouring of love and acceptance. A friend greeted me and said, “Girl, I have received so many kisses, I wipingné, (satiated), but I cannot refuse yours”. I even chatted with a family who drove 20 hours from Florida. They were determined not to miss this picnic.
Another friend said in a very thoughtful and serious tone, which took me completely off guard; “On a day like today, I am happy that I am not Stevie Wonder”. He was referring to the sheer exhilaration of seeing all of these beautiful faces of Dominicans friends that he had not seen for so long.
In years past, the park police always asked the attendees to leave the park after sunset because every one would just linger in the park in attempt to savor the day’s events. This year, an after-party was organized to facilitate attendees leaving the park on time and to provide a continuation of the day’s events. The response to the after-party was simply overwhelming.
The organizers wish to thank everyone for their participation. Although, some people have already volunteered to help with planning the next picnic, more volunteers are needed. Volunteers needed include but certainly are not limited to people who can make flyers, set up food tables, man the BBQ grill, wardens to ensure that attendees abide by the rules of the park, referees to man the local games etc. Interested volunteers can contact Tom Bruney at 732 249 7448 or Jacqueline Hurtault at 732 566 7212.