Let’s get together and feel all right — that was the vibe of the annual Peach Pickers’ Picnic, as hundreds of residents and migrant workers came out for a taste of Jamaican and Mexican culture.
“Every year there’s a party to get excited about. If my mother were alive this would be her birthday,” said Barrington Williams, a Jamaican employee at George Lepp Farms.
And what a party it was.
Niagara-on-the-Lake felt truly tropical — there was jerk chicken, curried goat, burritos, sunshine and generally high spirits as migrant workers and full-time residents mingled under and around the tent of the Market at the Village.
Local Jane Andres said that connection is exactly what she’s working for.
“Connection changes everything,” she said, noting this year saw a lot more community engagement, with vendors serving “well over 500 meals.”
Andres also holds the event as a form of recognition and gratitude for the people who maintain and harvest our local bounty.
Coun. Betty Disero spoke at the event, saying, “Niagara-on-the-Lake is unique because of its soil, its climate and its hard workers. I want to thank you all for coming up every season and contributing to our community. Jane you are amazing. We are truly blessed.”
“When you go to the supermarket you don’t know who pruned, picked and packed the fruit. That’s us,” said Williams.
His coworker Kenneth Hudson was also grateful for the event.
“This gives us recognition for the hard work we do here every year,” he said.
“Lots. The picnic means lots,” said Kevin Sancroft, a worker at Forrer Farms.
Local Adam Hawley helped get workers to and from the picnic.
“I’ve been back and forth all night. I had a chance to enjoy some good food, and the opportunity to connect with some of the guys I haven’t seen in a while.”
His father John donates the tent and property for the event.
The queue for traditional island food started at 5:30 p.m. and kept the employees of Caribbean Eatery going until the end of the show.
Michael Andrade, the restaurant’s owner, used to work on the farms himself.
“I came out here in 1986 to work for Falk Family Farms. It means a lot to see these guys out relaxing and having fun.”
Local Carol Miller said, “It’s amazing to see all of the workers out together. We have Jamaican support groups, and Mexican support groups, but we don’t usually get everyone together. It’s so great to see.”
Live music played throughout the night, from Latin dance to traditional Mexican folk songs, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean (with a 10-year-old on drums), and of course, reggae.
The last two songs of the night summed up the event perfectly: Bob Marley’s One Love, followed by Pharrell Williams’ Happy.