Mississippi Picnic in New York’s Central Park, a major showcase for the state, won’t be held this year, say organizers, attributing the cancellation to the state’s “unfortunate adoption” of a religion-focused law allowing discrimination against gay people and others.
This would have been the 37th year for the picnic sponsored by the New York-Mississippi Society. The event held each June in the past has drawn thousands of visitors to sample food and entertainment from the Magnolia State.
New York-Mississippi Society said it is standing up for “all Mississippians’” by calling off the picnic, which typically is attended by the state’s governor and other officials.
The Society had received a permit for the June 12 event but fear of protests led to its cancellation. “As a result of the unfortunate adoption of House Bill 1523, we have been informed that several concerned groups in New York City intend to demonstrate in protest of the passage of this law,” the New York-Mississippi Society said in a press statement.
“Due to the controversy, the protests and for our intensely felt dismay felt dismay over HB 1523, we deeply regret that the Mississippi Picnic cannot go forward.”
Gov. Phil Bryant voiced disappointment in the cancellation Tuesday afternoon. The Mississippi Development Authority, which uses the event as a major business recruiting venue, said it, too, is disappointed. But the agency said it also is unhappy that the organizers did not consult with it ahead of calling off the picnic.
“We are disappointed in not only their decision, but also their lack of discussion with Mississippi partners before cancelling the event,” MDA spokesman Jeff Rent said.
More than 5,000 individuals and groups had been invited to attend this year’s gathering, according to the New York-Mississippi Society.
The Society noted since inception of the Central Park picnic in 1980 it has sought to present a positive image of Mississippi without regard to race, religion or gender orientation. HB 1523, signed by Gov. Bryant on April 5, makes it difficult to share pride in Mississippi’s heritage and diversity, the Society said.
“Any law such as HB 1523 that discriminates against even a single member of our community cannot be tolerated, and therefore we have decided to stand up for all Mississippians by cancelling the 2016 picnic in the park.”
The press statement carried the signatures of Society founders Ron Carter, Vicki Carter, Rachel McPherson and Diane Wiltshire.
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