Neighborhood parades can be lots of fun. Aside from the delicious food you can find in the area, the people are casual and bring their folding chairs and just sit and enjoy the sights. This was the case on Franklin Ave. in Brooklyn on Saturday Oct. 12th where the Panamanians celebrated their independence for the 20th year in spectacular fashion. Many ladies brought out their traditional colorful polleras wearing it in style. It’s always great to see the tradition passed on to the younger generation where many teens and toddlers also wore traditional dress. Panamanians love their bands. One of first bands came from Maryland and the crowd stepped out of their way. They got the crowd worked up for the rest of the incredible bands from both Panama and Brooklyn. Local organizations were represented well in their dance and traditional costumes. One of the Panamanian bands that usually participate in the parade were the Banda Internacional El Hogar and they got the crowd excited with their fast drum line and loud horn section. But they were just getting things warmed up for the First Panamanian Drum and Bugle Corp from Brooklyn wearing their red uniforms. The winner of the beauty contest came next and she was quite stunning and dressed in a beautiful pollera. An interesting combination happened next when a Christian Panamanian marching band singing praises to the Lord was soon followed by a mischievous group of dancers and men dressed in diablo costumes..hmmmm. One tried to be louder than the other. It was a tie. Closing out the parade was a float with beauty queens in spectacular attire. After the parade ended, most folks headed over to Classon Ave. where kiosks with food vendors sold some delicious meals and a stage was set up to keep the party going for the rest of the day. Que Viva Panama.
Red and white flags were seen all over the parade route on 5th Ave. from 34th to 48th Sts. in the 76th annual Pulaski Day parade where thousands of Polish and Slavic people from the tristate area came to remember the great Gen. Pulaski and his contribution to shaping America during Revolutionary times. Once I got to 5th Ave. and 42nd St at around 12:30, I could hear the Polish national anthem being sung with so much passion by the many spectators. I knew this would be a fun day filled with many traditional costumes and marching bands. Keeping with tradition, paired off couples were given salted bread and wine as a symbolic gesture. Typically local and national politicians are part of the ceremony but with the government shutdown in effect, their absence was expected. Parade VIPs and honorary guests including Guardian Angel founder Curtis Sliwa marched up the parade route. One of the largest motorcycle groups I have seen at any parade this year rolled on by making thunderous noise to the delight of the crowd. There must have been at least 200 bikes in all.
The rest of the parade was organized by region. The first and largest region to march came from different parts of NY State with the biggest section coming from NYC, of course. Each group has it’s own beauty queen or Miss Polonia. Polish people are religious and many of the churches sent their representatives to march as well. One of the best displays was on a float dedicated to the soon to be cannonized Pope John Paul II from Poland. It was quite remarkable to see how all the children were dressed in traditional costume. They were having more fun than the adults it seemed. Well except for a traditional Polish dance group that really had fun dancing. The next region to march came in from Connecticut. They were a small group but loud and fun. The last region to march came from New Jersey. Many towns sent in their High School marching bands. One of the more notable bands came from Linden. They really performed well. Following them came an even more impressive band from Passaic. Their horn section was really amazing. A personal favorite is when the group from Wallington rolled up with the mayor riding in an original Duesenberg..very impressive. There was a fun float that had a Polish band playing pop music. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but they were having a good time. The crowd was definitely getting into it. As far as ethnic parades go, this was one of the better ones with lots of traditional costume and music played. One of the best signs at the parade summed it up best…Always Represent Polska.
Every first Saturday of October the Korean community of the Tri-state area get together for a fine display of culture, tradition and lots of delicious food. In this the 33rd version of the Korean Parade and Festival in K-Town, there were plenty of marchers dressed in traditional costume and traditional music along the parade route on 6th Ave. from 38th to 27th Sts. In the shadows of Macys and Herald Square, busy shoppers could take a quick glance at the college student members of the Korean Cultural Outreach Network beat the drums in traditional costume. They were fun to watch and considering they were from different colleges in the tristate area, they had a good dance and drum routine displayed for the parade VIPs. Various floats rolled on by but the common theme in each one was for the children to participate and learn and preserve the Korean culture and tradition. The family is center to the Korean culture and having the children dressed up in traditional wear was a special treat for parade watchers.
Of course a parade isn’t a parade without a marching band and this year two marching bands stood out. Mother Cabrini always wows the crowd with their high stepping and their trademark xylophone version of marching tunes. The show stopper had to be the high school marching band from the large Korean community of Ridgefield, NJ. They really played well. The martial arts have always been a part of most Asian communities and Tae Kwon Do schools brought out their best students to show off their style. A nice treat was to see the more senior POUAG group with their traditional Korean costume and instruments. Closing out the parade were the parade sponsors, The Korean Times float followed by some highly decorated bikers. Once they rolled on by I headed over to where the K-Town Festival was getting under way at 32nd St. between 5th and Broadway. The aroma of bbq meats and other delicious foods was drawing me in deeper to the crowd. Opting for some noodles with vegetables, I settled down by the stage and waited for the fun to start which didn’t take long. Dancers and singers entertained the crowd with their unique performances. All in all, it was a fun time and a great way to learn more of the Korean culture.
Every culture has its own custom in how they celebrate their heritage. That’s why covering parades in NYC is so much fun and insightful into how people from far away pay tribute to their own. The German American community has always been orderly and punctual and for the most part quiet. Not this year. Either the beer was flowing early or the various groups that flew in from Germany and surrounding areas were in a more than usual festive mood. In this the 56th edition of the Steuben Day Parade, where Prussian General von Steuben is honored for his leadership during the American Revolution, many large groups from Germany marched up the parade route on 5th Ave. and 67th up to 86th St. One of the best things about this parade is to see and hear the various marching bands from Germany, a treat any New Yorker would enjoy. A band that got the crowd worked up for a day of fun and celebration were the Liesborner marching band playing a nice tune and then singing in German. Several beer floats rolled by with some really fun groups getting into the swing of things but probably the best one was the Erdinger float with some really happy gals working the crowd and loving it.
It’s fun to watch all the traditional costume and dress of Germany. You just never know what to expect. They are all different. While the Irish and Scottish men wear kilts, the German men wear long shorts that could pass for pajamas. Great for a parade not so sure about a basketball game on 4th St. Another band that played eloquently came from the Landkreis Kumbach marching band. One noticeable difference in this years parade was the float showing the German and French Alliance with invited guests from Alsace and Brittany. Guess time does heal some deep wounds. One of my favorite parts of the parade is when the VWs come up 5th Ave. both old and new ones. A parade favorite has always been the German dogs walking their owners to the crowds delight. Keeping the energy level up came a float with Zum Stemmtisch playing a really upbeat tune the crowd really enjoyed. The drum only marching band of Reservisten Trammlerzug lead the way for an interesting group of marchers. One of the better bands I thought were the marching band of Bedbucdyck. Their uniforms and march and tune scored high notes. All in all it was one of the better Steuben parades I have been to. And as always the marchers headed over to Central Park for more celebration, food and what else beer…lots of beer and good times.
Parade revelers were lining up on the sun filled Sunday afternoon on Adam Clayton Blvd. waiting to see the start of the largest African American parade in the country. Marching bands and organizations from over 12 states walked past the shadow of the world famous Apollo Theater with pride, dignity and respect for each other. The 44th annual celebration of African American heritage and culture began differently from previous years as the usual marching band from Cheney University was absent. No worries though as the Camden HS Marching Band made up for it and played loud and proud. Parade organizers and local politicians including Congressman Charles Rangel and former mayoral candidate Bill Thompson waved to the crowd to get things started for a fun filled day. This year the women’s organizations came out strong to support women owned businesses and educational organizations supporting higher education. Every year large photos of the heroes of the community are carried as a reminder of the sacrifices that were made long ago to advance the cause of justice and freedom for today. Soon after came a group calling for a boycott of Florida and justice for the tragic death of Trayvon Martin.
A different take to the parade this year were the Buffalo Soldiers riding in on their stylized cycles. The crowd woke up some especially when some hit the throttle and made some thunderous noise. Guess it was a nice introduction for what was to follow when the first of several marching bands came down the parade route shaking things up. The Baltimore Entertainers got things under way with their heavy thumping drum beat. They were warming things up for the Baltimore Go Getters as they showed off their dance moves but wait it keeps getting better. As the New Baltimore Twilighters were making their way up the parade route one of the dancers spotted Mickey Mouse trying to steal their thunder and hopped over the fence to show him how shake it in Harlem. A smaller group called The Band had a really high energy show for the crowd. The band that got the most praise from the crowd though had to be the Baltimore Westsiders. They really tore it up. Not to be outdone was the colorful and high energy band of Mass Destruction. Closing out the proud display of high stepping bands were the New Edition. I think the had the best drum corp of all. As a tradition the parade closed out with black cowboys and their beautiful horses. A nice treat for any city kid from 4 to 94. This parade lived up to the hype. Great job all.
The excitement was building up early on Eastern Parkway in anticipation of the 46th annual West Indian Day Parade. Soggy weather didn’t dampen any of the festivities of the Labor Day tradition. As soon as you made it to Eastern Parkway the smell of spicy foods, jerk chicken, wood and charcoal burning, loud soca, reggae and calypso music and marchers dressed in costume let everyone know this was to be a fantastic day of celebration. Brooklyn is home to the most diverse and largest population of West Indians in the city and the roughly two million strong came out to party and dance to their favorite songs. The West Indian Labor Day Parade is unlike any other in the city. The parade starts around Schenactady Ave. and Eastern Parkway; if you hear a truck playing your favorite song you can hop over the railing and join the group and dance all the way to Grand Army Plaza…hop an a train and ride a few stops to the start of the parade and do it all over again. Of course you can always walk back and stop at the many kiosks for some delicious Caribbean food. Close to noon came the distant sound of the NYPD steel drum band to let everyone know the parade was kicking off.
This being an election year and the election primary just a week away, all the political hopefuls were out in full force to make their presence known. All the politicians were out shaking hands and mixing it up with crowd even though Weiner mostly stayed on his float…guess he was too busy texting to come down and greet the crowd. Front runner Bill DeBlasio had the largest supporters of any mayoral hopeful with Quinn and Thompson close behind..quite similar to the recent polls. All in all it was about an hour of politicians schmoozing it up and making one last appeal to the Caribbean community. Then the fun really started with the first of many trucks loaded with monster speakers played the crowds favorite songs with the mc leading the way for that group. Lots of masqueraders in their colorful costumes with feathers and little else on danced their way down the parade route. The first major group were the Savage Paradise group with lots of costumes representing the diverse culture. Not far behind them was the Ramajay Mas group that really got the crowd worked up with their music and sexy dancing. They had one of the best presentations with their Then and Now theme dance. I am sure they scored high points with the judges. Soon after them came the highlight of the parade with the breathtaking costume of this year’s Queen winner, the black and white Queen. She was amazing to watch. Nothing after that matched the detail and glamorous style of the Queen. Another group that was fun to watch were the TNT Boys. The party just kept on going with truck after truck after truck blaring some good sounds for everyone to dance to from one side of Eastern Parkway to the other. Of all the parades I watched this year, this parade is by far the most fun I have had. If you have a pulse, you will have fun. Raise your flag!!!
The 33rd annual Indian Independence Parade on Madison Ave. this past Sunday August 18th had an energetic and prideful feel to it. Many Indians from the Tri-State area came to see notable honorees including Bollywood star Vidya Balan and political reformer Anna Hazare lead the celebration of the 67th Independence Day from British rule. Billed as the largest Indian parade in the country, thousands of people were treated to a day of colorful floats, music, dancing and a celebration of coming to America to begin new lives. Many memorable sights were seen. One of them was a symbol of Lady Liberty with an Indian woman representing the iconic image. There was also an impressive float with a replica of the Taj Mahal and a bridge to a replica of the Freedom Tower. Once the parade got under way, a large number of people greeted the beloved star Vidya Balan on her float. She was soon followed by the remarkable Swamibapa Pipe Band. They could give any Irish or Scottish pipe band some good competition. The biggest response came on the convertible carrying reformer Anna Hazare. The NYPD could hardly prevent the large crowds from gathering around the vehicle so folks could shake his hand.
More colorful floats made their way down Madison Ave. towards 23rd St where there were more kiosks and food vendors of many kinds. India as a country as large as Europe and just as diverse with many languages and different customs and traditions. The spiritual side of India was well represented with many organizations from yoga, Buddhists, Christians, Hare Krishnas with each group wishing for peace and love among each other. It was a beautiful sight to see for anybody of any culture. One group that really made some noise and got lots of attention were the Jal Bharat dancing and drum group. They really put on a show for the crowd. Overall it was a fun parade with good content but the spacing and pairing of groups could have been better as some music mashed into other sounds and one couldn’t really appreciate either group. Some marching bands like Mother Cabrini and the Yonkers Military Band could not be heard too well over the blaring music coming over the speakers. Other than that the parade was a success and something the organizers, Federation of Indian Associations, should be very proud of.