Cries of hello across rows of picnic tables cut through the music playing at Belmont Lake State Park in West Babylon on Saturday, as people found old friends and came together to show their community spirit.
Guests from as far as California came to eat, drink and catch up with friends at the 10th annual Amityville Old School Reunion, which is hosted by the North Amityville Old School Association to show pride in its neighborhood.
"North Amityville has always had a bad label," said Terry Edwards, the association's president. "We just like people to know we have a good community."
The idea for the reunion started when Edwards and his high school friends realized they were only seeing each other at funerals.
Determined to meet under better circumstances, they decided to have a reunion picnic once a year, starting in 2003. The first year, Edwards hosted the picnic at his house, where about 20 people came. But each year more people come, from Amityville and nearby communities.
The association has fundraisers all year to pay for the picnic.
Last year's picnic was rained out. But this year, organizers estimated about 1,000 people attended, traveling from some 20 states.
Hosea Green, 73, said he comes from Atlanta every year to see his old friends from Amityville, where he lived for about 30 years, because he thinks it is important to come together.
Others plan their vacations around the event. Regina Arvon, 62, of Amityville, a retired probation officer, returned from a trip to California in time to attend.
"It's good to see the whole community get together and see people you haven't seen in years," she said. "As you get older, you realize family is important, but old friends are the best."