A Colorful View of Indian Celebration on Madison Ave.

18 Aug

Welcome My Friend

Welcome My Friend


Billed as the largest India Day Parade in the United States, this years version did not disappoint the thousands of parade viewers lining up Madison Ave. from 38th St. to 23rd St. It certainly is one of the most colorful displays of costume and tradition this side of the Atlantic. Many revelers lined up to see this years Grand Marshalls, Bollywood star Sunny Deol and NBA Sacramento Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive. One of the more festive parts of the parade was when the traditional dance group of Jallosh came dancing down Madison Ave. to the rhythmic drum beat. That was a fun group and got the crowd ready for a fun-filled day of color and pageantry. Spirituality is a vital part of the various parts of Indian culture whether its Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Sikhs. No matter the faith, they were represented in the parade. Many different parts of the entertainment industry made their grand appearance…from Bollywood stars to MTV stars to the most enthusiastic float of all, the one with Bhangra superstar Daler Mehndi. It’s always good to see how the young interprets traditional music into their own style. It happens in every culture throughout the world and was clearly evident when the float of StarPlus made their dance moves to the receptive crowd. Bringing in the new with respect for the old traditions is a beautiful sight to see. On that same note, the Daily News float carried a dozen beautiful young ladies in colorful traditional costumes. For about two hours on a hot sunny day in mid-August, you felt as though you were in the magic and beauty of India…right on Madison Ave. in NY.
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Colombians Party It Up in Queens

30 Jul

Proud Colombians

Proud Colombians


On the last Sunday in July, Northern Blvd in Queens turns into a big celebration with lots of dancing to salsa and cumbia as Colombians celebrate their Independence from Spain. This year, after an impressive performance in the World Cup by the Colombian soccer team, many people wore the bright yellow replica soccer jersey to represent their team and their passion for the game. The threat of rain did not stop the close to 75,000 happy Colombians from lining up the parade route from 74th to 86th Sts. When the mounted police signaled the start of the parade, the crowd was anticipating a day of celebration and love of the culture. After the parade organizers marched up the parade route, the first float carried the reigning beauty queen from Colombia soon followed by some great traditional dancers. They were really energetic and got the crowd worked up. One dancer balanced a small water bottle on her head while dancing..impressive.It was great to see lots of younger children getting all dressed up in traditional costume and showing of their dance moves. The Cali Salsa group had the best representation of modern dancers. Everyone loved their moves. A definite crowd pleaser was when the Hispanic firefighters rolled up blaring their sirens and loud salsa music. Some firefighters broke rank to dance with people in the crowd to make it a more festive event. It’s certainly true. Colombians know how to party. Que Viva Colombia.
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Que Viva Colombia

Que Viva Colombia

Orange and Black Top the Rainbow

30 Jun

Pride Parade

The hot summer day was just right for about a million people to come out and celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots, the birthplace of the gay rights movement. As usual The Sirens motorcycle club signaled the start of the parade around noon by 38th and 5th Ave. Mayor de Blasio saluted the crowd to polite cheers but Gov. Andrew Cuomo received the loudest praise first for his leadership in getting same-sex marriage approved in NY State a few years ago and his new initiative in an aggressive attack against HIV. Parade maven, Marni, rollerbladed around carrying a politically progressive sign..as usual. After local politicians made their way down the parade route, the Grand Marshalls, Laverne Cox, Rea Carey, and Jonathan Groff were greeted by the large crowd. Then the fun really started when crowd favorite The Flaggots spun their flags with precision. Plenty of corporate sponsors joined in on the fun. It wouldn’t be a march without some protest. This year was a cry for political prisoners to be released and more prevention of tragedies like that of Treyvon Martin. One group that keeps getting larger is the PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). As more younger people come out, parents and friends are right there to show their support for their courage.

Marni with a message

Marni with a message

Orange is the New Black float

Orange is the New Black float

Rea Carney

Rea Carney


Every parade is different and has its own flow to it. The Pride parade is getting to be as loud as the National Puerto Rican Parade and that says a lot. One reason the parade exceeded acceptable city decibel levels was when the cast of Orange is The New Black float made its way down 8th St. The crowd went nuts and the cast was eating it all up. Soon after just about every major cultural and religious group represented their pride. Most notably the Caribbean American group and the Hindu SalgaNY groups rose to the occasion. Groups from as far as England came to the party. One notable group from Russia carried signs saying Putin is very very bad. It was hard to tell just which ethnic group had the best representation but I did like the Latin group for carrying a flag of all the Latin American nations. A parade just isn’t a parade without a marching band and the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corp Marching Band killed it with their high energy and style. This was one of the better parades this year. The crowd really got into it and the marchers fed off that energy and made it a top 5 parade for 2014. Whether you agree with the lifestyle or not, one thing that cannot be denied is that love is love and this years parade had lots of love to go around.
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see ya next year

see ya next year

Sea Creatures Invade the Mermaid Parade

22 Jun

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The start of summer is celebrated in all kinds of ways in the city. You could have easily gone to Times Square and done yoga poses for free but for those wanting just a little more excitement there’s no better place to be than Coney Island, Brooklyn celebrating the Mermaid Parade with thousands of sea theme related costumes for all to enjoy. Each year the crowds keep growing larger and people come from all parts of the country to get in on the fun.  One big surprise was when Mayor deBlasio dressed up as a pirate to kick off the parade. His two children, Dante and Chiara, were named King Neptune and Queen Mermaid and they were loving all the  attention. Then the fun really started. The best place to see the parade is by the judges grandstand on Surf Ave and 20th St.  All groups are given a number and rated by easily influenced judges (the better the bribe the better the rating).  There were marching bands and dancing groups to keep the crowd well entertained. Since the Mermaid Parade also pays tribute to Burlesque era, there were plenty of dancers paying homage to the art form. One creative mermaid promised to keep watch over any drowning swimmers as she was she Guardian Mermaid. The first of the many sea creatures was rolled in while it sat on top of a large decorative fish. One group after another tried to impress the judges but by far the dancing group Sole Train made the best impression (bribes ahem). Not too far behind them were the crowd favorites Sexcamaids with their hot and sexy dance moves. Jazzing things up was a local group from the Coney Island Yacht Club with their brass band that could give any New Orleans street band a run for their crawfish. The parade is just the start of the days activities where the winner is announced at the Mermaid Ball later on that afternoon.  This year’s Mermaid Parade was one of the better ones so far and what a way to kick off some summer fun.

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Puerto Ricans Celebrate in Style on 5th Ave.

10 Jun

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The heat was just starting to kick in just before 11am when the mounted police announced the start of the 57th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade up 5th Ave. The good weather helped bring well over a million people out to cheer on the marchers. This was the first Puerto Rican parade that Bill DeBlasio  walked as Mayor. He was soon followed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the rest of the City Council. Then the fun started. Parade Queen Rosie Perez waved to the crowd. Another  favorite, Giants WR Victor Cruz, made an appearance. Everyone was waiting for his signature salsa dance moves.  Every year a different town in Puerto Rico is honored and their representatives are sent to display their music and culture. This year the town of Guanica sent a youth violin orchestra that played very well. Young ladies dressed in tradition Spanish attire drew wows from the crowd. Floats with salsa music blared through speakers getting the salsa dancers ready to show off their hot moves. There was a large group marching with Free Oscar Lopez signs. They provided many pamphlets and awareness to the political prisoners and their request for freedom after being imprisoned for 33 years. A float with Fania All-Star lead singer Ismael Miranda really got the crowd worked up. There was much love and respect given to the 65th Regiment known as The Borinqueneers. A really nice treat was an all-woman salsa music band that was on fire. There were plenty of salsa dancers strutting their stuff. This parade is known as the loudest and proudest of all the parades and it certainly lived up to it.

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Millions of Irish Eyes Smiling on 5th Ave.

20 Mar
Let the Fun Begin

Let the Fun Begin

Cold winds and old man winter’s last grip couldn’t stop the enthusiasm and good cheer of the millions of Irish that braved the elements to celebrate the 253rd St. Patrick’s Day Parade on 5th Ave. The oldest and longest parade did not disappoint with a fine display of Irish culture and pride in honor of the patron saint of New York City and Ireland. Millions of revelers jammed the parade route from 44th to 79th Sts., many huddled together to generate enough body heat to stay warm during a cold blustery day. The mounted police signaled the start of the parade with the much anticipated arrival of “The Fighting 69th” Regiment of NY with their signature Irish wolfhound mascots. Fire Departments from all over the Tri-state area sent their firemen as well as their counterparts from Ireland. Clans from every county in Ireland sent their representatives to march in the granddaddy of them all.  Many had their own pipes and drum bands play some tunes; most notably was the group The Finglas Concert Marching Band from Dublin.

The Fighting 69th and their mascot

The Fighting 69th and their mascot

 

The Finglas Concert Marching Band

The Finglas Concert Marching Band

 

Officer McDonald

Officer McDonald

It always brings a smile to my face to see Officer McDonald rolling down 5th in his wheelchair. He is the embodiment of forgiveness and compassion. The group of firefighters carrying 343 American flags reminds us of the brave heroes that gave the ultimate price to save others during the 9/11 attack. Yes, we will never forget. This years parade had a fun twist to it. The parade was dedicated to the Gaelic Athletic Association of New York on their 100th anniversary. Various sports organizations throughout the Tristate area marched up 5th. Sorry but the New York Rangers were a little thin in their representation. They must have been on the road. Soon after the Gaelic Athletes were the distinctive xylophone chimes of the Mother Cabrini all girls marching band. It was welcome relief to see them as the school was in danger of closing earlier this year. Many of the Catholic schools in the city sent their marching bands but one of the more notable out of towners were the West Milford Marching Band from New Jersey. They were unique in that they mashed bagpipes and traditional marching band tunes. It turned out really well. A special treat came when the Spaniard bagpipe band arrived with their unique style of play.

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343

 

West Milford NJ MB

West Milford NJ MB

 

Spaniard Bagpipes

Spaniard Bagpipes

The parade certainly lives up to its reputation for being the longest parade. I went to lunch at 1:30 and came back and the parade was still going strong. There are several judges along the parade route making notes of who best represented Irish culture and costume which helps makes the over 200,000 marchers even more exuberant. Even though this was one of the coldest St. Patrick’s Day parades I have been to, there was enough love and pride to warm the heart of any Irishman. In NY, on St. Patrick’s, we’re all Irish for a day…and that’s a mighty fine thing.    st.pats14 014 st.pats14 028 st.pats14 032 st.pats14 033 st.pats14 043 st.pats14 049 st.pats14 052 st.pats14 060 st.pats14 064 st.pats14 065 st.pats14 081 st.pats14 086 st.pats14 100 st.pats14 118 st.pats14 148 st.pats14 154 st.pats14 156 st.pats14 158 st.pats14 167 st.pats14 170 st.pats14 179 st.pats14 181 st.pats14 188 st.pats14 191 st.pats14 197 st.pats14 210 st.pats14 217

See ya next time...

See ya next time…

Hanging Tough With the Rainbow People in Queens

17 Mar
Happy Holi

Happy Holi

After the last full moon of the winter season, the Caribbean Hindus celebrate like no other culture in the city. Richmond Hills in Queens is home to the largest Guyanese  and Trinidadian population in the US. The tradition of spreading colorful powder on each other goes back to over a thousand years from the celebrations of India. It’s symbolic of chasing away the dull winter and welcoming in the arrival of a colorful and fertile spring and it also represents the triumph of good versus evil. Liberty Ave. in Richmond Hills, Queens was buzzing with marchers getting ready to celebrate Phagwah or Holi with several floats filled with people spreading colored powder on each other. Although it was a bright sunny day, old man winter still had a hold on the weather and it was still below normal temps. Perhaps the long brutal winter months made the crowd more exuberant in their celebration because the energy level was sky high for this year’s parade.

Let the celebration begin

Let the celebration begin

Friends enjoying the celebration

Friends enjoying the celebration

Jamming at the parade

Jamming at the parade

In keeping with tradition, a young dancer dressed in traditional costume danced to the gods pleading for no impediment to the festivities that lay ahead. Once she finished dancing the parade organizers led the way down Liberty Ave. followed by various floats mostly from neighborhood mandirs (houses of worship). They all had messages of positive living and spiritual guidance not to mention blaring speakers with traditional music to get the crowd worked up for the festival in Smokey Oval Park where the parade route ended. One particular group of drummers really got the crowd worked up with their energetic play. Once the parade route turned off the commercial end of Liberty Ave. and onto the residential street heading towards Smokey Oval Park, homeowners would gently smear colored powder to anyone walking past their home. That’s one of the best things about this parade, total strangers patting each other on the face or shoulders with colored powder and saying Happy Holi and by the end of the parade most people look like a rainbow of color and having some good wholesome fun. After this tough winter there were thousands of people in Smokey Oval Park ready to welcome in the color of spring.

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Happy Holi to Everyone

Happy Holi to Everyone

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