A mammoth New York Jamaican celebration of Trelawny
By 2 p.m., the numbers in Rockland Lake State Park in Rockland County, upstate New York, had swelled to some 8,000 picnickers from across North America, and as far away as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Jamaica, to pack the sprawling tree-lined lake park with colourful picnic blankets and baskets, tables, tents, and smoky barbecue grills.
But it all started just as the sun was rising above the lush, green hills of Rockland County on Sunday morning, May 28, with cars and buses rolling into the parking lot to the recreation area of the state park to drop off the eager occupants for the kick-off of the 43rd edition of the annual Trelawny Reunion Picnic.
It all told an amazing story of the phenomenal growth of an annual reunion picnic that began life as a small gathering of about a dozen families from Falmouth, Trelawny, at Rockland Lake State Park.
People chatted, old friendships were rekindled, and the laughter of children intermingled with the sights and scents of mouthwatering dishes, including the irresistible roasted Trelawny yellow yam and salt fish.
At the unique family affair, friends and strangers alike freely partook of the ample fare on offer, as they roamed the park to reconnect with their parish and perhaps a long, lost friend. “This never gets old. Each year when I step into the park, it almost feels like I am stepping back in time to see countless friends, who I grew up with and know,” said Dr Albert Stoddart, who hails from Falmouth and now calls New Jersey home. Dr Stoddart, who has been attending this Trelawny picnic for more than 30 years, said, “Our stories never end, and the good feeling stays with me until I return the next year,” he added.
Another long-time attendee, Dahlia Gordon, who hails from Duanvale, (Trelawny) now residing in Maryland, (USA) said the reunion picnic is one event she looks forward to every year. She gushed: “Can you believe I can walk from one end of the park to another and be invited to a friend’s picnic table for a meal at no cost? That is truly the spirit of Trelawny and Jamaica!”
Among the notable figures on hand for the special occasion were Falmouth Mayor Collen Gager, who was accompanied by a seven-man delegation, including former Mayor Garth Wilkinson.
Gager said it was both a distinct pleasure and honour for him to be at the 43rd staging of the Trelawny annual picnic - a momentous fête that brought over 8,000 Jamaicans together.
“I must express heartiest congratulations and good wishes to the people of Trelawny living in the United States, who continue to stage this event. Sunday’s picnic was testament to the love, warmth and resilience that epitomise a true Jamaican.” The fellowship and camaraderie, the fun and frolicking, the networking, and the friendships forged are nothing short of amazing. Trelawny – and in particular Falmouth – has benefited immensely from members in the diaspora, and this picnic is one such event that will seek to raise funds to support development in the parish.
Gager noted that “with our new Trelawny Drop-In Centre and Homeless Night Shelter opened, I am sure that we will continue to receive support in caring for the vulnerable. I look forward to the continued support, and pledge my unwavering commitment to working with the diaspora to build Trelawny”.
The picnic at Rockland Lake State Park culminated a weekend of reunion activities; a Friends of Falmouth Symposium & Brunch, Trelawny We Come from All-White Party, FOF welcome party, William Knibb High School Alumni Annual Memorial Day Barbecue, and Scarlett’s backyard Falmouth Barbecue.