KINGSTON — Just after noon Saturday, the Wilkes-Barre NAACP’s picnic in Kirby Park seemed to be attracting a bigger crowd than the neighboring, much more heavily promoted Riverfest.
“We always do,” joked Larry Singleton. “It’s a great gathering.”
Singleton, the local NAACP’s first vice president, estimated at least 1,000 people were in attendance at the 16th annual Diversity Picnic/People’s Picnic. Many of them were standing in a long line — two and three wide — that snaked around the amphitheater area, waiting for their chance at grilled and barbecued picnic staples.
Though officially the event’s coordinator, Singleton said the picnic’s volunteers, including some from diversity groups at Luzerne County Community College and Misericordia University, work so hard that the event practically runs itself.
Local stores and supermarkets donated truckloads of food and supplies as sponsors of the event, and anything not used is passed on to other organizations to aid in their own events, he said.
NAACP President Ron Felton said the picnic is an evolution of an earlier event.
“This was born out of the racial summits that we had, and the idea came that we should have something less formal,” Felton said.
And people seem to be biting at the idea. Felton said he hopes the large, diverse crowd (both in age and ethnicity) can help break down stereotypes, improving community cooperation.
Representatives from a range of organizations — from the ACLU to the American Red Cross — were on hand disseminating information. Educating under-represented communities of the importance of voting and motivating the individuals to register and do so is a goal for the NAACP, Felton said.
“I think the next great milestone is the political participation of minority groups,” he said, as it would usher great change and improvement in their communities.
NAACP Second Vice President David Barber could barely take ten steps without being stopped by someone he knew. After leading a little girl to a facepainting stand, he found a minute to breathe.
“This picnic is basically to bring everybody together as one,” he said.
And while he believes it accomplishes that goal to greater success each year, the picnic’s message needs to reach further, he said.
“It’s good that a picnic can do it,” Barber said, “but it needs to be done in the public.”