After a year of complaints, racial allegations and controversy, this year’s Annual Northside Oldtimers Unit Gathering seemingly went off without any major problems or disturbances to the Northside community.
The picnic took place on August 5, 6 and 7 in Allegheny Commons Park and saw between 5,000 and 7,000 attendees, who came out to celebrate their annual anti-violence neighborhood picnic.
Unlike previous years, neither the city nor the Oldtimers received complaints about the event. Organizer Mildred Taylor called the picnic a “truly blessed event.”
The picnic included food, face painting and a variety of other events for families who call the Northside their home.
“Northside Old Timers’ Unity Gathering was a wonderful event that brought together generations of African American families at the Allegheny Commons Park. Events of this nature are what help to enliven the Pittsburgh experience and create a strong sense of community,” said Councilman Danielle Lavelle. "It was noteworthy how organizers and attendees, in staging an event of such magnitude, were respectful of their surroundings and the nearby community while positively enriching the park with their celebrations.”
In previous years, other Northside residents complained about noise, debris and damage to the park after the Oldtimers’ event. Specifically, dog walkers who use the Allegheny Commons dog park worried that the chicken and rib bones left behind from the picnic would be harmful to their dogs if swallowed.
In February, nearly three dozen residents signed a petition that addressed the way park permits are issued and enforced.
At the time Oldtimers board member William Thompkins felt that the Oldtimers were being singled out. The petition did not address the Oldtimers specifically, but referred to “recent events.”
“If we were a non-African American association, would we have been responded to in the same way? I don’t know, but I don’t think so,” Thomkins told The Chronicle in February.
In June, after working with the Allegheny Commons Initiative to resolve the problem, the City responded by announcing that the existing park rules would be enforced more strictly than they had been in the past.
“We want to make sure everybody understands the rules,” said Councilman Lavelle.
However, Taylor said that the newly enforced park rules had no negative impact on this year’s picnic and noted that the event’s security and clean-up did an excellent job.
“As a matter of fact for those who were not informed about the open flames and the burning charcoal, we were given receptacles to put the hot coal in from some of those concerned,” she said.
Taylor said she has no commentary regarding the controversy over the picnic and the park.
“All is well that ends well,” she said.