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Millions Come Out to Give Thanks

28 Nov

 

     IMG_3939     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.

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      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.

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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.

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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.

Bright Lights Blight Fright at the Halloween Parade

1 Nov
Puppets of Light

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

Let the Light Shine In

Picasso Drawing a Masterpiece

Picasso Drawing a Masterpiece

Honoring the Missing 43 Mexican Students

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

Marni the beautiful butterfly

Rat Chomping on a Slice

Rat Chomping on a Slice

Stay Thirsty My Friends

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.

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Come Inside for a Ride

Come Inside for a Ride

Latin Unity Abound on 5th Ave. at the Hispanic Day Parade

15 Oct
Flags of Nations Displayed

Flags of Nations Displayed

For the last 51 years, the day before Columbus Day is celebrated by millions of fans coming out to the parade route on 5th Ave. to celebrate Hispanic culture in dance and music and costume. As the end of Hispanic Heritage Month comes closer, the parade showcases all the different cultures and their similarities. From the gauchos of Argentina and Chile to the diablos of Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to the hot dancers from Colombia and Panama…all came to show their talents and national pride. All Latinos speak Spanish but like here in the States there are accents and dialects of the same language. Kicking off the parade were junior cadets holding flags of all the Hispanic nations. The first of 18 nations represented in the parade was the group from Spain, as that’s who financed Columbus’ voyage to the Western hemisphere.  A group of lady flamenco dancers displayed their slow sensual moves to the cheering crowd. They were soon followed by the winner of this years Miss Universe pageant, Miss Colombia Paulina Vega and the 1st prize winner of the folkloric dance competition from Peru, Fuerza Peruana.  They were just warming things up for what would be a display of celebration and unity among Latinos.

Miss Universe Paulina Vega

Miss Universe Paulina Vega

Flamenco Dancers From Spain

Flamenco Dancers From Spain

Bolivian Dancer in Training

Bolivian Dancer in Training

The flow of the parade goes alphabetically with Argentina and their gauchos and tango dancers leading things off. Then one of the largest and most colorful groups from Bolivia showed the diversity of their culture with the San Simon Caporales dancing their energetic dance. The Indian Tinkus and the Morenales also made their way up the parade route on 5th Ave from 44th to 68th Sts. Colombia got into the mix with their colorful costumes and even had some impressive youthful dancers show off their moves. Costa Rica had some really tall stilt walkers and Cuba had a Celia Cruz wannabe. Azucar. The diablos from the Dominican Republic cracked their whips and got the crowd worked up. Ecuador had a decent representation with some good folkloric dancers having fun. El Salvador had an impressive marching band. Guatemala has always been the most environmentally conscience of the nations. Honduras got into the mix with a lively float. Mexico had a nice variety of dancers with traditional costumes but the crowd favorite has always been the super hyper chinelos in their amazing costumes. Nicaragua had a larger group than last year but still could use a boost.

Bolivian Pasion

Bolivian Pasion

Dominican Diablos

Dominican Diablos

Panamanian Queen

Panamanian Queen

Last years winner of the coveted Hispanic Culture Award presented by Macy’s for the group that best represents Latin culture and pride was Panama and they surely went all out to retain their crown. They had some of the most impressive floats and marching bands from both Panama and Brooklyn. Probably the highlight of that group were the High School marching band from San Vicente de Paul. and Manual Maria Tejada Roca MB. They were amazing and could give any US HS marching band a run for the money. Peru brought their better dancers to show off some moves. Puerto Rico sent a Marc Anthony wannabe. They definitely need to step up their game especially since their are so many Puerto Ricans living in the city. Hello. Paraguay got into the mix with their balancing bottles act. Closing out the parade were the scantily clad ladies from Uruguay with their drummers keeping the pace moving. Venezuela had a better group than last year and were more environmentally friendly. Each year the parade gets better and close to a million people came out to support the Hispanic culture and contribution to this great city.

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So long my Queen. See you next year.

So long my Queen. See you next year.

Panamanians Make Some Noise in Brooklyn

13 Oct
Bugle Section Blaring Away

Bugle Section Blaring Away

On a sun filled Saturday in early October, the streets of Franklin Ave. in Brooklyn were converged on by thousands of Panamanians to celebrate their independence from Colombia and to display their culture, heritage, and some delicious food at the after party street fair on Classon Ave. Many ladies, young and old, wore their traditional polleras, a long decorative dress used in formal occasions while the men wore their straw hats and guayabera shirts. Panamanians love their marching bands and with good reason as they are one of the best in the city. This year the crowd was treated to a swinging folkloric band that improvised a song when an NYFD truck blared its horn. The lyrics changed quickly to someone called the firemen to bring the water because the parade is on fire. The crowd just ate it up.

Traditional Pollera

Traditional Pollera

Band Member from Panama

Band Member from Panama

Band from Maryland

Band from Maryland

The crowd was treated to some very special visitors from Panama. Each year a different town in Panama is asked to send their representatives and their marching bands to perform at the parade. This year an impressive group from Santiago de Veraguas made an appearance. High school students from San Vincente de Paul in their sharp looking uniforms set the tone for a day filled with lively bands and a celebration of Panamanian culture. One of the best High School bands to perform from Panama was from Las Tablas when the marching band from Manuel Maria Tejada Roca tore it up with their well choreographed dancers and impressive white clad musicians. They can compete against anybody. There were local community groups and businesses owned by Panamanians represented in the parade.  One of note was the famous Kelso restaurant float that was handing out samples of their delicious seasoning to spice up your next meat dish. As always, closing out the parade was the host marching band in their snazzy all white uniforms. The 1st Panamanian Drum and Bugle Marching Band played their hearts out to the crowd. They held nothing back as they marched down the parade route to the reviewing stand and onto Classon Ave. where the fun and celebration kept going until sunset. Now that’s how to have a party. Que Viva Panama.

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Que Viva Panama

Que Viva Panama

Harlem Brings Out the Best For A Day of Celebration

24 Sep
Egyptian Royalty

Egyptian Royalty

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

Icons of the Community

Marching Cobras Show How It's Done

Marching Cobras Show How It’s Done

Marcher In Training

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.

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German Americans Show Their Style at the Steuben

21 Sep
Styling at the Steuben

Styling at the Steuben

You know it’s the end of summer when the Steuben Parade heads up 5th Ave. in honor of the contributions of many German Americans going all the way back to our nation’s founding when Baron Von Steuben helped win the Revolutionary War. This tradition, now in its 58th year, brings unity with Germans from the homeland and German Americans from the US in celebration of culture, music, costume, dance, nice cars and lots of beer floats. One of the best parts of this parade is when the German marching bands play some tunes for the devoted fans on the parade route from 68th to 86th.  It’s great to see and hear the contrasting styles of German and American bands. The crowd really got into it especially when the band from Stuttgart played. The Musikverein Mohringen band were just warming things up for some of the larger bands soon to follow. There were many language groups and community groups representing German culture… and did I mention lots of beer floats. Perennial parade favorites are the Long Island Volkswagon club and the Doberman Pinscher dog club and they did not disappoint.

German Band Having Fun

German Band Having Fun

Colonial Acrobats

Colonial Acrobats

Beer Float Party Going On Here

Beer Float Party Going On Here

The traditional costumes were simply amazing this year. There was an elegant appeal to some of he costumes as men were in top hats and tuxedos. For a second thought they were on the way to a wedding at the Boat House in Central Park. There was another group dressed in colonial times attire that displayed some acrobatic flair. They were fun. In their first year at the parade was a loud band with a chorus from Hopfingen.  A newer darker group were the chimney sweepers but their gloominess was quickly chased by what else …another beer float. By far the best band to play were actually two bands from Shutzen and Musikzug Sudsauerland. When the first band finished playing their tune, the second band followed right in step. They were a special treat for all the parade revelers. It was great to see a kindred spirit between German police and firefighters shared with NY’s Finest and Bravest. All in all it was a fun parade to attend and the marchers made their way into Central Park for Oktoberfest where there were more live bands, lots of dancing and what else….more beer.

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See you next year..

See you next year..

Egyptian Royalty Take Over the West Indian Day Parade

8 Sep
Queen of the Parade

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

Dominica Visits the Parade

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Kingly Costume

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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.

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