Steppers Stomping the Streets of Harlem in Style

25 Sep

Westsider High Steppin'

Westsider High Steppin’


Billed as the largest African American Day parade in the country, this past Sundays salute to African American heritage, culture and contribution to America was alive and kicking in high gear. Although the parade was competing with the largest People’s Global Climate March in the world, the streets were still lined up with thousands of revelers looking to see marchers, dignitaries, and some of the best steppers from around the country. The 45th annual parade always sends positive messages to the community and more importantly brings awareness of injustices that have happened. Banners demanding an end to police brutality and a demonstration set for October to protest police tactics were prevalent. This was also a day for celebration as many unions participated to show unity and strength in the face of a wave of efforts to block and weaken workers on a national level. Mayor deBlasio was well received for his efforts to reach contractual agreements with union workers, one the previous administration had difficulty doing. The Rev. Al Sharpton and Mayor David Dinkins were applauded for all their hard work to bring a voice to those that have suffered some injustice.
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Bonnet Ladies Doing It Up in Style

Bonnet Ladies Doing It Up in Style

Getting ready to Step

Getting ready to Step

Then the fun started when he first of several steppers arrived. The Baltimore Westsiders showed off their moves to the grandstand at 125th and Frederick Douglas Blvd. The Yoruba African group danced their way up the parade group with some unusual costumes. Ironically they were followed by the Christian Warrior Marching band. They were pretty good. One of the steppers with the cutest kids were the Mission Drum and Bugle Corp. The little girls in their 50s throwback costumes brought smiles to the faces of many in the crowd. The various motorcycle clubs roared up the parade route while the ladies in bonnets brought some fashion to the party. Getting the crowd warmed up some more were the Citywide Goldstarz with their energetic leader and the Marching Elite with their jazzy style. A new addition to the parade were a hometown stepping group that really worked the crowd with their tight moves. The Marching Cobras set the tone for the rest of the parade and were the benchmark for other groups to follow. The acrobatic FAO-TOR group kept the energy level on high showing off their cheerleader moves. The Baltimore Showstoppers lived up to their billing and gave the crowd a thrill with the great choreography and booming marching band. They tore it up. Closing out the steppers was a dynamic group from Baltimore…Mass Destruction, yeah they killed it. Their high energy and focus was unmatched. Once again the parade was a major success and was a fine display of African-American pride, culture, unity and strength.
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Come back and see me next year

Come back and see me next year

Germans Score Goals at the Steuben

24 Sep

IMG_4378 Fresh off their dramatic World Cup victory, the Germans that came to NYC to participate in the 57th annual Steuben parade on 5th Ave. were still riding high with the fever of a big win. The parade typically kicks off the fall season with a display of traditional dress (and beer), some well seasoned German marching bands (and beer), and revelers dressed in the German Karneval costumes (and did I mention beer). The parade traditionally is a tribute to Baron von Steuben, the Prussian General responsible for training the first Army during the Revolutionary War. But it has morphed into a display of fine German culture and tradition including many youth celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. With over 20 marching bands shipped in from Germany to march in the parade, the crowd was sure to be treated to some good marching tunes. As usual the mounted police signaled the start of the parade followed by one of the marching bands. It was great to see representatives from both the German police and fire departments sharing some special moments with their NYC counterparts. Many local German affiliated clubs and organizations marched their way up the parade route from 63rd to 86th Sts. including a crowd favorite, the Long Island Volkswagon Club.
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It’s always great to see the German marching bands and compare them to some US High School marching bands. One of the more notable bands came from Nienborg and played a loud brass filled tune while the marching band from Ebersberg was more airy with flutes and chimes. Both were a treat to see and hear. A perennial crowd favorite are the karveval groups dressed in their funny costumes while some viewers enjoy the more traditional “Tracht” attire. Even some dog owners got in on the parade showing off their Dobermans and Hovaworts. All the build up was for one of the best marching bands the city has seen this year as the Schutzenkapelle Holzheim marching band made their way up he parade route. It’s always great to see the tradition passed on from one generation to another and to see the youth embrace traditions passed on from the Motherland. Although the parade was shorter than previous years and missing a crowd favorite, the maypole, it was still a fun parade to be part of.
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Sehen Sie im nachsten jahr.
Photos by Annette Kuehn

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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