The unusually warm and calm weather was just perfect for the millions lined up on the parade route to see the popular huge balloons at the 89th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Heightened security helped give the revelers from ages 1 to 99 a sense of comfort although some anxiety was evident when a FDNY truck blared their sirens to rush to an emergency away from the parade route. After that temporary interruption, there was no stopping the fun and excitement that comes along with best parade in the city. With over 50 million people watching worldwide, the fun was just getting started when newbie balloon Ice Age’s Scratch made his way down the parade route. The balloon handlers got the crowd worked up by starting a Scratch chant. One of the best things about this parade is the hundreds of clowns going around making people laugh and have a memorable experience. But what really sets this parade apart is the line up of great marching bands. Starting up the list of bands was the Stephen F. Austin marching band from Texas.
One of the largest balloons to make its appearance was the Diary of a Wimpy Kid balloon soon followed by the Cavalier Marching Band of the University of Virginia. Another of the larger balloons made all the kids gaze in amazement. The Red Power Ranger was greeted by the adoring crowd. Florida sent the Gulf Coast HS Shark MB from Naples. They were pretty good but they were just warming things up for the Munford HS MB from Tennessee. The NYPD sent their marching band preceding the Policeman float. I heard a few people giving thanks to the police officers for helping to keep them safe. With all the horrible events that recently happened in Paris, it’s a reminder the world can be a dangerous place at times. The police have a tough job and most times goes unappreciated…but not today. People gave thanks. The international section was next with dancing groups from India and China waving to the crowd. Plenty of sea creatures were seen just before one of the more popular floats made its appearance…Spongebob Squarepants. Quite fitting was a big pirate ship followed by a retread of an older balloon..the pirate balloon. Even the big Red Angry Bird balloon couldn’t get this crowd upset. They were all about having fun. A really nice pairing was the FDNY Pipes and Drum band blaring their bagpipes ahead of the Fireman balloon.
Saving the best marching bands for last were the North Hardin HS MB from Kentucky only to be outdone by the West Chester Golden Rams from Pennsylvania. They had a good time working the crowd. The most energetic of all the bands has to go to The University of Illinois Marching Illini. They were amazing and the crowd showed their love and appreciation. Then all the Christmas themed floats appeared. All came by in anticipation of the Big Daddy himself…Santa Claus with Mrs. Claus and all their elf helpers. It was great to see all the kids smiling and waving to Santa. Before you know it Christmas will be here and it will be time for family, friends, and the joy the holiday brings. But for now, the crowd dispersed to their destination to enjoy a day of thanks, good food and good times.
This was one of the best years for parades in NYC. Thousands of people came from all parts of the world to celebrate with NYers. Thanks to all the parade organizers and volunteers that made these parades so much fun to be a part of and record their history. Thanks to the NYPD for keeping everyone safe and clear of any danger. And thanks to you the reader for keeping this blog going. It has been an honor and privilege to be part of this endeavor. See you next year.
Puppets of Light
In a time of darkness, turn on the light. It’s that easy yet so hard for some to do. Some like hiding in the darkness..brooding, afraid and plotting what harm to do next. But others shine their light so those bad intentions go far away. That was the theme in the 42nd annual Halloween parade in the Village. Bring the Light…Bring the Love. Artistic and Producing Director, Jeanne Fleming brought hundreds of artists, puppeteers and volunteers together to pull off an amazing display of creativity with positive themes and lots of bright lights. Thousands of marchers came out in some of the most creative costumes only New Yorkers can invent. Not only is this parade the largest Halloween party in the world but it’s also one the largest displays of puppetry in the country. Hundreds of thousands of revelers lined the parade route on 6th Ave., in the Village, waiting for the blessings to be bestowed by the the beloved angels of light signaling the start the parade. Soon after came the wow inducing display of puppets that had many people smiling at the imagery and message. The puppets of lights started a dance to the theme of 2001 A Space Odyssey….a very classy touch. A very impressive way light was shined on to chase away the darkness was when a group from Mexico carried signs with the names of the 43 college students that were missing and later determined to be murdered in Mexico. This group honored their memory and now that light has been passed on to us to uncover the truth from the darkness where it hides.
Let the Light Shine In
Picasso Drawing a Masterpiece
Honoring the Missing 43 Mexican Students
The first of several bands and floats made its way up the parade route. The Lesbian and Gay Marching Band of NY got the party started with a nice tune. The Hungry March Band got things swinging into action with their lively music and dancing. The first wave of marchers arrive with some really creative outfits. My personal favorite was the colorful Picasso costume. A float with futuristic dancers really got the crowd worked up with some future techno beats. A crowd favorite is the Day of the Dead float that honors the celebrities that have passed away including Jackie Collins, Leonard Nimoy, Cecil the Lion, former NY Gov. Mario Cuomo, and Yogi Berra. The distant sounds of a rhythmic drumbeat could only mean one thing..the samba dancers were coming. They really got the crowd worked up. A nice surprise for the event was the masquerade party float with none other than the commercial sponsor of Dos XX beer, the most interesting man in the world with a lovely lady on each arm.
Marni the beautiful butterfly
Rat Chomping on a Slice
Stay Thirsty My Friends
Waves of costumed marchers showed off their creative side like only New Yorkers can. Perhaps some of the better ones included a slice of pizza with rats gorging into the crust… an interpretation of the viral video of the rat eating a pizza in the NYC subway system. Another good one was Cecil’s revenge where someone dressed as a lion biting into a dentists neck. A perennial favorite came dancing up the parade route to Michael Jackson’s Thriller and they were soon followed by the amazing all female drum band that rocked the parade. Batala came in full force to get the crowd all worked. Mission accomplished. Most of the groups performing in the parade dressed in white to reflect the bright light and chase away the darkness even if for a few fun-filled hours. There’s no other party like this in the world and it’s only in NYC on Halloween night. Scare ya later.
Come Inside for a Ride
The last weekend of one of the hottest summers in the city closed out with a festive celebration of African American culture and contribution in Harlem USA. Billed as the largest Black Parade in the Nation, it certainly lived up to the hype. It’s also becoming one of the longest parades rivaling St. Patrick’s, the Puerto Rican, and West Indian parades. It’s becoming larger with groups coming in from 12 states and more community groups getting involved. One thing was clearly evident in the grand celebration of the 46th annual event…everyone brought their A game to the parade. Starting with the lead marching band from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania as they set the tone for what would be a day of fun, sharing knowledge, activism, music and some great steppers. After parade dignitaries and VIPs made their way to the reviewing stand on 125th St and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., current and former politicians including former Mayor Dinkins and Rep. Charles Rangel drove up the parade route. Mayor de Blasio was well received mostly because of his effort to increase affordable housing and push for income equality…issues that have impacted the African American community deeply. Activists and community groups were in abundance as recent events directed against defenseless African Americans by police has galvanized the community to help bring about change. The Black Lives Matter group had gathered a large presence for this years parade and news of upcoming activist events and protests were let known. Sorority groups displayed posters proclaiming their allegiance with Sandra Bland. An Islam group sponsored by Majid Malcom Shabbaz had a few floats with large images of iconic figures that gave selflessly in the struggle for freedom and equality. They also had a funk band that played some hot tunes from the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. They got the crowd worked up.
Icons of the Community
Marching Cobras Show How It’s Done
Marcher In Training
One of the many marching bands to march up the parade route were the newcomers from Milford Mills in Baltimore, Md. They were sharp with their green uniforms and lots of high energy. The first of the many marching units from Baltimore brought their style to the parade. The Christian Warriors thrilled the crowd with their moves. They were just warming things up for some of the larger marching units including the striking local Marching Cobras. One group that made the biggest impression was a large group representing the United Nuwaupian Nation, an ancient Egyptian order based in Brooklyn. They dressed in traditional costume and presented a traditional dance at the reviewing stand. Soon after several marching units from Baltimore tore it up with their high stepping and loud drums. Dream Nation got things moving with their high energy. The Baltimore Entertainers followed up with their own style but not far behind was the sassy Baltimore All-Stars. Near the close of the parade was the Baltimore Go-Getters and that they did with one the more impressive shows for the crowd to really get into. It was a great time for anyone to come up to Harlem and celebrate in grand style.
Queen of the Parade
The scorching heatwave could not stop over 1 million people from lining up the parade route on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn where the smells of spicy foods made you feel as though you were on the shores of Kingston, Jamaica or Barbados or Trinidad. As hot as it was, the beach would have been a suitable alternative but the asphalt and cement of Brooklyn played host to the 48th annual West Indian Day Parade. A loud celebration of culture, tradition and lots of colorful costumes. As usual the first hour of the long parade is held mostly by local politicians including Gov. Andrew Cuomo ,NYC Mayor DeBlasio, City Council members and parade dignitaries and VIPs. Soon after the politicians shook hands, community groups and activists displayed messages to help raise awareness of social issues impacting their community. Brooklyn is home to one of the largest West Indian community in the US. A group of activists marched with large banners denouncing the recent immigration laws in the Dominican Republic that discriminate against Haitians. Another group pushed for anti- gentrification of Brooklyn while another group displayed photos of people murdered at the hands of police. A group from Dominica really got the crowd worked up with a lively drum band. The groups representation was less than anticipated because of the damage done by Hurricane Erika. After a local religious group sang their songs of praise to the revelers, all hell broke loose.
Dominica Visits the Parade
Queen from Massachusetts
The first of 40 tractor trailers with monster speakers got the crowd worked up with lots of soca and dance music. It really felt like Carnival. Many masqueraders dressed in their group theme with some amazing costumes that left very little to the imagination. That beach scene was relived all over again. One group from Massachusetts displayed an all white costumes and the king and queen were quite impressive. A smaller group, The Immortals, had some good fast music going for everyone to dance to. A similar group, 500 Strong, had some of the best dancers. One large group, Kaois Mas, really had some energetic masqueraders and great costumes. But they were really getting things warmed up for another large group that won prizes for Queen of the Parade. Sesame Carnival with an Egyptian Royal theme really had a leg up on the rest of the competition. Their performance to the judges was quite extraordinary. For some reason the pace of the parade was slower than in previous years and the gaps were plentiful this time around. Aside for a few police matters, the parade was a smashing success.