2005-07-01 / Front Page

Massive Crowds Expected Next Weekend

By Brian Magoolaghan

Several major events are slated to take place in Rockaway at the end of next week, and a combination of good weather and strong word-of-mouth could bring tens of thousands of visitors to the western end of the peninsula.

First up are the Wounded Warriors, a group of about 30 men and women recently injured in army combat and their families, who will arrive from Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, July 7, according to organizers.

The Warriors, who are expected to arrive with a police and fire department motorcade, will be in town to fish, water ski and scuba dive in Jamaica Bay through July 10.

Evening activities – including the St. Camillus Special Athletes Fundraiser and Wounded Warriors salute – are also planned. The Warriors will head to Breezy Point for the water activities and, on Sunday, July 9, will be honored with a parade to the community’s September 11 memorial.

Flip Mullen, an organizer, said Rockaway residents have already given tremendous support, but said donations and host families are still needed.

The heroes are also expected to receive national and citywide media attention. Organizers say the hospital has commissioned four public relations professionals to coordinate media access, including a boat for video and still photographers and reporters.

That event is sure to draw above-average crowds, but the Guyanese-American Family Fun Day is expected to draw tens of thousands of celebrants to Gateway National Recreation Area’s Floyd Bennett Field.

Although usually scheduled for the second Sunday in July, this year’s official celebration was moved to Saturday, July 9, noon to 2 a.m., according to Lester Williams Guyanese-American Ambassadors Association (GAAA) secretary.

A potential problem is that some members have split from that group to form the Guyanese-American Social Club and are advertising a celebration at Riis Park on July 10 – the date that the majority of last year’s attendees are familiar with, Williams said.

“The whole Guyanese community is focused on that day,” said Williams, who seemed sure that Sunday would see massive crowds.

Last year’s gathering was so enormous that police cut off access to Riis Park. The Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and Flatbush Avenue were jammed for hours with passenger vehicles.

The masses were generally well behaved, but park staff was so overwhelmed by the numbers that officials this year issued a press release warning of “overcrowding and heavy auto traffic.”

“Approximately 25,000 to 30,000 members of New York City’s Guyanese American Community gathered at Riis Park last July… a similar number of people may attempt to use the park this year,” says the statement released this week. Officials also warned the public of heavy traffic delays.

This year, Williams said, the GAAA worked with park officials to avoid problems. They put up a bond to cover the park’s associated costs and had to secure insurance, he said.

“We want things to go smoothly for us and the community,” he said.

Participants in the Guyanese-American Family Fun Day can call Gateway at (718) 318- 4300 for Riis Park and (718) 338-3799. The GAAA can be reached at (718) 922-1640.

The Graybeards are still need donations and host families for the Wounded Warriors event. For more information call Mary Ellen Olsen at (718) 634-6812.

The St. Camillus Special Athletes Fundraiser and salute to the Wounded Warriors is being held July 9 at the Mullen residence, 147 Beach 134 Street, from 5:30 to 10 p.m. There is a donation.

The Breezy Point Wounded Warriors Parade is slated to step off from Reid Avenue at about 3 p.m. Sunday, July 9, Mullen said.

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