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Hundreds gather to celebrate Wyandanch Family Day

Shanieka Smoot, 15, of Central Islip, marches in

Shanieka Smoot, 15, of Central Islip, marches in the annual Family Day parade in Wyandanch, June 13, 2015. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Hundreds gathered Saturday for Wyandanch Family Day -- a decades-old celebration of peace, love and unity.

The joyful event at Wyandanch Park was held nine days after the hamlet was rocked by a triple slaying.

A gunman -- who has not yet been arrested -- shot and killed three people and wounded another as they sat in a sport-utility vehicle on Davidson Street, less than a mile from the park.

But residents -- intent on enjoying a warm, sunny day -- stressed Saturday that most people in the community are hardworking and peaceful.

"Wyandanch is love. We all love each other. That's the 2 percent that does those things," Family Day coordinator Kevin Spann said of the violence. "Ninety-eight percent of us go to work, go to church and go home and spend time with our kids. We're the least visible part of Wyandanch; we're the quiet majority."

The event, which Spann said started in 1968, featured a nearly mile-long parade that began on Straight Path at Long Island Avenue. Dozens of marching bands, dancers and church, community and motorcycle groups formed the procession. Trucks from local fire departments, including Wyandanch, North Amityville and Gordon Heights, also participated.

That was followed by a day full of music, food and "togetherness," as Spann called it.

Emmanuel Alvar, 18, a Wyandanch native, walked in the parade with a group of about a dozen representing the Wyandanch Public Library -- all wearing lime green T-shirts.

Alvar, a library maintenance worker, is set to graduate this month from Wyandanch High School.

"When this day comes around, everyone knows summer is right around the corner," he said. "We want people to come here and see we live in a good place."

Across the park, people laughed, caught up with friends and neighbors, took selfies, played basketball and fired up barbecues.

While Suffolk County police officers patrolled the grounds by foot and bicycle, Risco Mention-Lewis, the department's deputy commissioner, addressed the crowd.

She touted the success of the Wyandanch Community Resource Center, which has grown from serving 30 children a month to about 400. And she praised the #Enough Committee, which is devoted to reducing crime and keeping kids on the right path.

"Police don't stop crime," Mention-Lewis said afterward. "Really, crime is stopped through influence and social control . . . The community has to go and say, 'Not on my corner.' "


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