Indians Bask in the Glory of Celebration on Madison Ave.

17 Aug
Drummer Having Fun in the Sun

Drummer Having Fun in the Sun

On a day where the weather felt more like Mumbai than New York City, thousands of Indians came out to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Indian Independence parade on Madison Ave. The parade is billed as the largest Independence Day parade outside of India. The excitement was building ahead of the opening ceremony as members of Parliment, Bollywood actors and traditional dancers were ready to march down the parade route from 38th to 24th Sts. The Indian population in the tri-state area has been on the rise in the last decade as the tech boom in NYC has attracted many from the other side of the globe. A parade like this helps ex patriots recapture the tradition and culture with others that might be on assignment or relocated permanently to the US. As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade.  In their second year dancing in the parade was the loud and colorful Jallosh group with their signature loud drum beat to wake every one up and prepare them for a fun filled day.  India is one of the most diverse and spiritual nations and the parade reflected this amazing diversity. Many religious groups carried banners with messages helping to raise consciousness. One banner was from the Jain religion and how it inspired Ghandi’s approach to non-violent change while another reflected the unity of India and the US with images of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. together.

Dancers Working the Crowd

Dancers Working the Crowd

Parade Dignitaries

Parade Dignitaries

United in Spirit

United in Spirit

Another impressive traditional dance group was Jai Bharat with their colorful attire and loud drum beat. They were a prelude for the parade dignitaries including India Parliment member Sashi Tharoor, whose wife was found dead last year in a hotel in New Delhi. Bollywood actors Arjun Rampal and Parineeti Chopra really got the crowd worked up. Perennial favorite is the Swamibapa Pipe Band from Secaucus NJ really got into the moment and played some tunes that would have given the  Irish or Scottish pipe bands some competition. Revelers young and old and everything in between were showing their love of country and culture and more importantly having lots of fun doing so.

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Love and Peace to All

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All photos courtesy of Laura Josephson

Dominican Diablos Crack the Whips on 6th Ave.

11 Aug

Diablos Plotting The blazing hot weather invited thousands of Dominicans to come out to 6th Ave. to celebrate their culture, music, costume, and contribution to the fabric of NYC. The 34th version of the sizzling parade was not without controversy though. After parade VIPs and delegates from the Dominican Republic ushered in the start of the parade, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo was cheered with a loud welcome. Following the Governor was his rival of late, NYC Mayor DeBlasio. He was not welcomed as much. Mostly for his comments on the recent decision by the Dominican government to begin the expulsion of Haitians even if the illegal immigrant has been there for many generations. Mayor DeBlasio denounced the decision as “immoral” and “racially motivated”.  Dominicans tend to follow government policies as something personal. If you criticize the government you are criticizing them. DeBlasio was attempting to maintain a balancing act as there are also many Haitian voters living in the city. After the booing faded the fun began when a group of merengue dancers made their way up the parade route from 38th to 52nd Sts. A crowd favorite of masked devils cracking whips really got the crowd worked up.

Folkloric Dancers

Folkloric Dancers

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Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez

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A few Dominican born celebrities had some fun taking selfies. The two Parade Marshalls really got the most ovation. Recent MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez was loving all the Pedro chants. Even I got in on it..a devout Yankee fan that I am chanted Pedro a few times. No worries. I drove right by Yankee Stadium later on just to get grounded again…whew. Musical giant Johnny Ventura was on another float blaring some of his biggest hits. Many more diablos marched up the parade route getting lots of hugs from revelers. The Goya float had a great band playing typical music of the Dominican Republic. The crowd went nuts for one group that had the best float in the parade. It was great to see smiles galore and traditions passed on from one generation to the next.

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Mi Patria

Mi Patria

Scary Sea Monsters Can’t Chase Away the Beautiful Mermaids

21 Jun
The Party Mermaid

The Party Mermaid

The remnants of Tropical Storm Bill were delayed just in time to allow the 33rd annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island to go on without hardly any rain. Perhaps King Neptune had something to do with it. This way all the lovely mermaids and sea creatures could show off in one the most creative parades in the nation. The parade is actually a second generation of a prior Mermaid parade dedicated to Vaudeville, burlesque, dime museums, and circus sideshows. The newer version includes elements of the old parade and requires NYers to use their creative juices to present costumes or dance performances with a marine theme to the more than open to bribery judges for higher points. Each year there are Brooklyn related honorees that wear the crown of King Neptune and Queen Mermaid for the year. This year the honorees were Mat Fraser and his wife Julie Atlas Muz. They met in Coney Island for the first time and their romance led to marriage. The misty rain let up just in time for the parade to kick off with a fine display of antique cars and then the fun started with all kinds of mermaids and sea creatures trying to get the judges attention. Getting the crowd all worked up were the all female drum band Batala with their pirate costumes. They were real good.

Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz

Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz

Founder Dick Zugan

Founder Dick Zugan

Some Hot Sauce for ya

Some Hot Sauce for ya

Probably one of the best things about the parade is that more families and larger groups are participating in the costumes and dance themes. A parade just isn’t a parade without a marching band and the Black and Yellow Marching Band were sure having fun at the parade. They were soon followed up by a crowd favorite, The Sexcamaids. They were probably the best dancing group. Each year one group of dancers steals the show with their creativity and this year The Codfather scored high points for their creativity and mix of movie clips from the Godfather classic. Of course, they made offers to the judges that they couldn’t refuse. The parade keeps growing larger in entries and popularity. People came as far as England to witness NY creativity at its best and they were not disappointed. Have a safe and fun summer.

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Have a safe and magical summer

Have a safe and magical summer

A Beautiful Flag Raised by Millions at the Puerto Rican Day Parade

17 Jun
Dancing at the Puerto Rican Day Parade

Dancing at the Puerto Rican Day Parade

The sizzling hot Sunday afternoon was only matched by the blazing hot salsa music and dancers showing off their moves at the Puerto Rican National Day Parade. This is by far one of the largest and loudest parades the city hosts. An estimated 1 million people packed the parade route on 5th Ave from 44th to 79th Sts. and waved their flags in approval for the over 10,000 marchers. They were not disappointed as celebrities as Grand Marshall actress Rita Moreno, actress and parade Queen Roselyn Sanchez, and salsa singer and Parade King Victor Manuelle got the crowd worked up in what would be a day of celebration of culture, history, music and love of everything Puerto Rican.  Even Mayor DeBlasio got in the mix and took a selfie with a reveler. Each year a different pueblo in Puerto Rico is highlighted to display some cultural expression and history. This year the pueblo of Anasco sent a large group with dancers, singers and a float commemorating when the Spaniards and Taino Indians met in the Rio Grande of Anasco. They sent a salsa band that really got into the moment and played with lots of energy.

Grand Marshall Rita Moreno and her two grandsons

Grand Marshall Rita Moreno and her two grandsons

Parade King Victor Manuelle

Parade King Victor Manuelle

Parade Queen Roselyn Sanchez

Parade Queen Roselyn Sanchez

Mayor de Blasio getting in on a selfie

Mayor de Blasio getting in on a selfie

As in most large parades as this, there are always groups that seek to raise awareness of social issues. There were calls to release Oscar Lopez Rivera from a 75 year prison sentence. A large group asked Pres. Obama why funding for healthcare for Puerto Ricans is less than other Americans. For the first time the League of Women’s Voters had their float and encouraged women to register to vote and have a voice in our political system. Another float was expressing the push for a $15 minimum wage to help improve the income disparity in the city.

Taino Indian from Anasco

Taino Indian from Anasco

Cute dancer from Anasco

Cute dancer from Anasco

Costumes of Hatillo

Costumes of Hatillo

One float that got the biggest applause was the crowd favorite with Tito El Bambino performing his popular songs. This years theme was to highlight the African contribution to Puerto Rican culture. One group that distinguished themselves were the group from El Barrio in Spanish Harlem called Taino Towers. They played some classic salsa songs that had the crowd singing with them. Even Batman got in on the action when a float playing live salsa music got the Dark Knight to show off some moves. Another float had conga drummers getting dancers all worked up. They were fun to watch but think they would have been better dancing on the street instead of on a float. An interesting float payed homage to the masks of Hatillo with people dressed as though they were in an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. They were having fun. It’s always a nice surprise to hear some good music from an unexpected source like that of the Hispanic Society of NYPD float. They tore it up and the crowd loved it. Puerto Ricans love their cars and there lots of customized wheels on the parade route….even a pair of the hot new Slingshots made it to the parade. And for all you music lovers there was one van with doors of speakers on top of speakers. It was just crazy and loud and just beautiful. You know its beautiful when three generations of a family can come down to Central Park and 5th Ave. to see a whole bunch of loud and fun people letting everyone know just how proud they are to be Puerto Rican. Yo soy Boricua pa que tu lo sepa!!

Its a family affair

Its a family affair

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Dancing the Day Away on Broadway

17 May
Manhattan Tribal Dancers Working It

Manhattan Tribal Dancers Working It

The young and vibrant Dance Parade celebrated its 9th year on May 16th in festive style with lots of music, costumes, and what else…lots of dancing. It’s the one parade that brings all people of the world together to show off their favorite dance moves. From the sultry and sexy belly dancers to some sizzling samba to some classical ballet, the parade route from 22nd and Broadway to 8th St and Avenue A was filled with lots of high energy and good times. This years Grand Marshall float boasted an eclectic mix of dance icon and actress Carmen de  Lavallade, Alvin Ailey choreographer Robert Battle, DJ Rekha spinning a hot Bhangra mix while some Bhangra dancers got the crowd pumped up for a fun day of dance and sharing.

Grand Marshall Float

Grand Marshall Float

Yes...All Lives Matter

Yes…All Lives Matter

Bhangra Dancers Having Fun

Bhangra Dancers Having Fun

As in most parades in NYC there are always some political or social message helping bring awareness of an issue. The Thriller group which pays tribute to one of the best dancers ever, Michael Jackson, displayed banners reminding us of the value of each and every life. Yes. All lives matter. The first of a group of artists showing the crowd their slow and sensual belly dancing moves were the Pure Onyx Movement. A good pairing were the Samiras School of belly dance and the crowd favorite Manhattan Tribal. One dancer pulled a viewer into the mix and got her to shimmy some. The crowd loved their moves. A new group that got some attention was the Kizomba group with their elegant mix of  tango and bachata and zook. Cultural groups made their presence felt. The group having the most fun was the Brasileirando Samba dance group. They really worked the crowd. Not too far behind them were the Bolivian San Simone Caporales with their shiny costumes and high energy dance moves. NYC has the best nightlife in the country and some of the more popular clubs sent their floats with some crazy costumes and dancers. The Toad, an annual crowd favorite, had some crazy dancers with hula hoops really getting the crowd into it with some club music. A really fun group were the young Broadway Dance Center making up their own dance moves. For a second I was reliving the dance classic movie Fame. I wanna live forever… no matter what age, race or religion…the Dance Parade brings people together to honor and respect the most ancient of art forms…dance.  IMG_8209 IMG_8215 IMG_8218 IMG_8224 IMG_8232 IMG_8238 IMG_8244 IMG_8259 IMG_8263 IMG_8274 IMG_8279 IMG_8286 IMG_8292 IMG_8296 IMG_8298 IMG_8302 IMG_8316 IMG_8320 IMG_8335 IMG_8337 IMG_8348 IMG_8353 IMG_8366 IMG_8372 IMG_8383 IMG_8386 IMG_8395 IMG_8404 IMG_8411 IMG_8423 IMG_8427 IMG_8435

It was a Heck of a Ride...

It was a Heck of a Ride…

A Sea of Blue Shine for the Greeks on 5th Ave.

31 Mar
Folkloric Greek marchers

Folkloric Greek marchers

Early spring still had a chill in the air but that didn’t stop the thousands of revelers from lining 5th Ave. from 63rd to 79th Sts. to celebrate the 194th anniversary of Greek Independence from Ottoman rule. It was a festive occasion although it was not without incident. As with most major parades, the mounted police signal the start of the parade. Nearby the reviewing stand near 68th st., a mounted police officer was thrown from his horse when it got spooked by some loud music. The officer was writhing in pain in his leg. The incident caused a delay in the start of the parade. Once word got out that an officer was injured in the line of duty, both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio rushed to the aid of the officer as he was being hoisted into an ambulance and rushed to Bellevue Hospital. Once the incident was under control, the parade kicked off much to the delight of the anxious crowd.

Hostess of the Broadcast

Hostess of the Broadcast

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Cuomo and DeBlasio checking in on wounded officer

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Presidential Guard..Evzones

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A Sea of Blue on 5th Ave.

Grand Marshalls NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, John Calamos, and John and Helen Psaras made their way up the parade route. They were soon followed by representatives from Greece including the Greek Defense Minister. Greeks are a deeply religious people and have a great reverence to His Eminence Archbishop Demitrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America. But what everyone was looking forward to was the perennial favorite, the Presidential Guard of the Republic of Greece, Evzones, marching with their signature steps. The crowd went nuts when they marched by. Several youth groups from Universities from Greece marched behind the Evzones. This was the first year several groups imitating the Presidential Guard participated in the parade. A group that always gets loud cheers are the Greek Folkloric group with their traditional costumes and the mighty Greek Warriors with their authentic Spartan warrior attire. They were placed strategically to protect the Greek Independence beauty queen float. The parade was broadcast locally on MY9 and internationally back to Greece.

Ernie Anastos broadcasting on MY9

Ernie Anastos broadcasting on MY9

Folkloric costume

Folkloric costume

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Cyprus Protesters

Groups from Cyprus marched by with banners protesting the Turkish occupation of their land. Other floats showed off the Greek contributions to civilization like democracy and a tribute to the famous painter “El Greco”. One marching band that looked like they were having fun were the Superior Sound Marching Band. Greek Orthodox Churches from the tri-state area sent representatives to march. It was great to see revelers cheer on their fellow church members. This was a fun parade with lots of traditional costumes.

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Great to be Greek for a day.

Everyone’s Irish For a Day on St. Patrick’s Day

20 Mar
NYPD Emerald Society

NYPD Emerald Society

The mostly overcast day gave everyone a hint that warmer weather for NYC is finally on the way. As I turned up 5th Ave. around 49th St., the sidewalks were about 10 deep or more anxiously waiting for the parade to kick off. The patron saint of both the City of New York and Ireland, St. Patrick’s devotees come together from the USA and Ireland to celebrate Irish culture, contribution and tradition. This year’s version had a greater international influence than in previous years. Marching bands came from afar as Japan, France, Canada, Chile and Argentina. They were all well received by the more than 1 million revelers that lined up 5th Ave. to see the granddaddy of them all.  The St. Patrick’s Day parade is the oldest parade in the nation celebrating its 254th year. It was great to see people from all nationalities wearing something green in honor of the shamrock and Irish pride and culture. As usual, the mounted police signaled the  start of the parade. It didn’t take much to get the crowd cheering. As a show of force, the parade kicked off with the original fighting Irish; the Army 69th Regiment with their signature pair of Irish Wolfhounds howling to get started. This historic group was the first military personnel to respond to the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then, 24 members have been killed defending our freedom and serving our country.This years parade was dedicated to those fallen heroes and their families.

Parade Grand Marshall Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Parade Grand Marshall Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Officer McDonald

Officer McDonald

Protesters have their say

Protesters have their say

A parade this large could not go on without some controversy. Mayor DeBlasio refused to march in the parade because parade organizers would allow only one gay and lesbian groups to march; Out@NBCUniversal.  It’s a step in the right direction but not enough and protester made their point along the parade route near 56th St. Parade Grand Marshall Cardinal Timothy Dolan, from the Archdiocese of New York, got the crowd worked up. He’s beloved by the millions of Catholics living in the Tri-state area. Getting a nice reception from the crowd was Officer McDonald, a living symbol of love and forgiveness. One of the more impressive pipe and drums band was from the NYPD Emerald Society. They really got the crowd worked up. An annual favorite is the sleek Dover HS Marching Band. Representatives from all the Armed Forces sent their bands to play and march but the Navy band surged ahead of the others.

Osaka Orchestral Band

Osaka Orchestral Band

Band from Brittany, France

Band from Brittany, France

A Happy Reveler

A Happy Reveler

Groups from all the counties in Ireland made their way up the parade route. They were wishing all the revelers a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. More fun came when bands from all parts of the world marched and played some really good music. The award-winning band from Osaka, Japan was really having a good time and worked the crowd. The band from Brittany, France played their own kind of bagpipes and performed a traditional dance. They were a definite crowd pleaser. The wind started kicking up in just what appeared to be an appropriate moment. The FDNY group of 343 marched to the applaud of the crowd. This group reminds everyone of the 343 firefighters that gave the ultimate sacrifice on the Sept. 11 attacks. The firefighters carrying the flags had to use some force to keep the flags from falling backwards because of the wind gusts. When the 343 flags marched passed me, people were yelling “we will never forget” and there were even a few USA chants heard. That chant brought me back to Game 3 of the 2001 World Series in the Old Yankee Stadium. My friend Nelson and I drove 5 hours from a contingency site in New Hampshire to be part of the Fall Classic and yell out loud USA..USA..USA after President Bush threw a strike to catcher Jorge Posada. Chills ran up and down my spine in probably one of the best moments ever in Yankee Stadium. Yes. We will never forget.

343 FDNY group honoring our heroes

343 FDNY group honoring our heroes

Derry County Representatives

Derry County Representatives

US Navy Marching Band

US Navy Marching Band

All the parochial high schools in the tri-state area get to march in the parade with the band from Londonderry Ct. being one of the crowd favorites. Looks as though parade organizers are trying to compete with Macy’s Thanksgiving parade for the most out-of-town marching bands to perform. Bands came in from Utah, Kansas, California but the most notable were from Roane HS Tennessee and Hoover HS from Alabama. The kids had a great time and it was probably their first time in the Big Apple for many of them. Some of best dressed pipe and drum bands had to be ones from the Police Emerald Society of Westchester with their snazzy yellow tartans. One of the best sounding pipe and drums band had to be the Suffolk County Pipes and Drum band.

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If this is a precursor to the parade lineup for this year, New Yorkers and tourists will have a fantastic time. The parade was energetic and full of cheer and good will. I was really glad to be Irish for just one day.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2015

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