Going Retro at the Thanksgiving Day Parade

25 Nov
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Felix the Cat

The final parade of the year is always the best one. Millions of fans lined up early along the parade route to catch a glimpse of the giant character balloons, celebrities, floats, great marching bands and hundreds of clowns. Macy’s has put on a show of shows for the last 90 years every Thanksgiving Day and this year’s theme was going back in time with one of the original balloons, Felix the Cat. This year, the weather held up great with little wind to speak of and the expected light showers held off just until Santa Claus made his grand entrance at Herald Square. Folks come from all corners of the world to march and perform on the great stage where millions of viewers watch the unique American holiday.

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West Virginia University Marching Band

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Charlie Brown Kicking things off

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Thomas the Train

Kicking things off was the lead band from West Virginia University with blue yellow and white uniforms. This parade is famous for its ensemble of great marching bands from all across the country. Fans were not disappointed with the tight precision and crisp sound from all the marching bands. Hard to tell which ones were on the top tier…they were all excellent. The first of the big balloons floating his way down 6th Ave. was Charlie Brown. Snoopy was in the doghouse this year but Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang got all the kids riled up for a great day of fun. Sesame Street and Company had a great float as always but the Oscar the Grouch was rude to me and slammed the garbage lid on me while taking his picture. Two of the largest balloons arrived with Thomas the Train tooting his horn and Ronald McDonald greeting all the kids. The next marching band hailed from Florida in the Newsome Marching Band. They were all pumped up to be at the parade.

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Paddington Bear

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Power Up!!

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West Point Academy Marching Band

Giant balloons of the Paddington Bear and the Red Power Ranger made all the kids from 95 to 5 all go wow at how big they were. Power Rangers arm alone is the size of a school bus. They were followed by the Cary Indiana High School Marching Band.  All throughout the parade, hundreds of clowns greet the viewers and wish them all a Happy Thanksgiving. It really is the largest collection of clowns for any event..except maybe for Congress.  One of the grown up marching bands always leaves a great impression mostly because of their uniform is the West Point Academy Marching Band. They were sharp. But on the other end of the spectrum was the fun Hawaii All State Marching Band. They were having lots of fun and played great. One of the newest giant balloons made its premier. The Trolls balloons were amazing with a colorful display. They were followed by the international section with groups from China and Armenia with their colorful costumes and energetic dancing.

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Skylanders Eruptor Balloon

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One heck of a Wimpy Kid

 

Drumlines always make for a great marching band and the better ones were from Grain Valley in Missouri, the Prospect Marching Knights from Illinois, Hendrickson Hawks from Texas,   and a slight edge going to the Greendale Marching Band from Wisconsin. They really had a strong drumline. Once the giant Spongebob Squarepants float arrived, the parade switched gears from Thanksgiving themed floats to Christmas floats. A few of the better ones were with singer Sarah Mclachlan and the three level floats with the Elf on the Shelf balloon carefully watching over them. Of course, it’s always great to see a living legend wish all his fans a Happy Thanksgiving. Tony Bennett waved to everyone as he passed by. Then the big moment finally arrived as the three floating elves let everyone know Mr. and Mrs. Claus were right behind them. To watch the eyes shine from all the kids and adults is one of the best things about this parade.

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Angry Bird

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Happy Elves

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Sarah Mclachlan and crew

This year had some of the best parades the city has seen. From freezing weather in the Chinese Lunar New Year to St. Patrick’s Day to the Greek Independence to the sizzling hot Mermaid and the Puerto Rican Day Parades to the West Indian and Hispanic Day Parades to the chilly Halloween and Veterans and Thanksgiving Day Parade….this was an amazing year for parades. Thank you for all the marchers and revelers in making this all possible. Thank you NYPD and FDNY for protecting us and responding to any emergencies. Thank you all parade organizers for your endless work in making these events a pleasure and an honor to be a part of. And thank you, the reader and viewer for taking a small part of your day to see what really makes America great.

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Jolly Santa on His Way

Happy Thanksgiving..Merry Christmas…and See You in the New Year.

Veterans Honored at America’s Parade

12 Nov
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Flags of the Armed Forces

One of the best parades the city has is the annual Veteran’s Day parade where servicemen and women are remembered for all they endured to defend our freedom and preserve our nation from threats outside and within our great nation.  Since the first parade in 1919, at the end of World War 1,  revelers lined up the parade route on 5th Ave. to cheer on and thank the proud vets and current military personnel. You couldn’t have asked for nicer weather for the largest event in the country to honor our vets. Before the parade though, there is a gathering at Madison Square Park where vets are honored and the laying of the wreaths at The Heroes Monument occurs with a 21 gun salute at exactly 11:11 am. The parade started right after that with a convoy of loud motorcycles from vets getting everyone ready for what would be a  memorable day for all. As usual the NYPD mounted police let everyone know the first group was nearby with the  NYPD Marching Band getting things worked up for the crowd. Not to be outdone, the FDNY Pipes and Drum Band made their grand entrance.  They’re always in competition.  Just like this year’s Presidential election, it was a close call to see which one played better. Although Blue was the favorite, looks like Red scored the most points.

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NYPD Det. Nelson Vegara, FDNY Chief Duggan and Port Authority COO Stephanie Dawson

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West Point Cadets

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Proudly Carrying the Stars and Stripes

One part of the parade that always gets to me is when the World Trade Center flag is displayed. With all the horrors that occurred  on 9/11, the Stars and Stripes was preserved through all the rubble.  This years Grand Marshalls knew from first hand experience about 9/11 as all the three were First Responders and eventually served in the Invasions of Iraq and  Afghanistan.  Col. US Army and NY Port Authority Commanding Officer Stephanie Dawson, FDNY Battalion Chief and US Army Vet  Joseph Duggan Jr, and NYPD Detective and Marine Corp Vet Nelson Vergara  were all honored for their bravery and commitment to serving our city and country. Soon after them was the first group of the four major Armed Forces, the Army. They were well represented with the West Point Cadets and the 42nd Infantry Division and their marching bands. With their sharp uniforms and precision marching, they made quite an impression . Several marching bands from across the country made the trip to the Big Apple, many for the first time ever. One of the more notable High School marching Bands came from Sapula, Oklahoma. They were very good.

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One of the better marching bands

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Marine Corp. leading the way

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Naval Officers in Charge

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Coast Guards Give the OK

Along with vets and current military personnel are the groups that help support them. Operation Mend was one of the first of these groups that helps vets get back to normal life after serving our country. Probably the biggest group is the Wounded Warriors Project and their huge volunteer support group. Another High School band that made some nice sounds came from Inman, South Carolina. They led the way for another branch of our Armed Services, the Marine Corp. No marching bands from the Marine Corp…they mean business. A tribute to the USS Iwo Jima from the powerful Navy was next up along with a great marching band that came down from Massachusetts to show the other bands how it’s done. The High School Marching band that came the furthest was from Spokane Washington in the West Valley HS MB. They played their little hearts out. The last of the Armed Forces to march was the Coast Guard. They brought their best band and some firepower. Hard to tell which of the armed forces had the best display and marching bands. They were all excellent.

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WW2 Vet Having Some Fun

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Dad would have been proud

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Maggie brought her Dad with her

 

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Take Me Home Huey Project

The part that everyone had been waiting for finally arrived, the display of our beloved vets. The first being the remaining World War 2 Vets… or as Tom Brokaw brilliantly wrote about, the Greatest Generation. One of the happiest WW2 vets was Luke G proudly displaying a sign that he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and is 92 years young. God bless. What was more touching though were the children of deceased vets that brought their father’s pictures with them to the parade.  Folks like Louis from the Bronx that brought his father, Joseph’s photo, or Maggie that brought her father Henry’s photo so that somehow some way they can be part of the experience. It’s similar to when the cub scouts bring out large photos of WW2 vets that perished at Pearl Harbor but on a much more personal level. Next up were the vets from the Korean War with great representation from all the local chapters. They were greeted with loud applause from the crowd. The Koreans that helped us were also given a large ovation. A group of Veteran Moms and the Blue Star Moms also were shown a lot of love by the crowd. Right after them, the Air Force landed with a marching band up from Washington DC. The band was great and helped introduce the next group of vets, the Vietnam War vets. They got the loudest applause of all and heard many fellow Vietnam Vets yell out Welcome Home. This year, the crowd was treated to the Take Me Home Huey Project where a medical evacuation helicopter that was shot down on February 14, 1969 in Vietnam was displayed after an amazing transformation. Part of the original remaining crew was reunited and got plenty of thanks and applaud from the crowd. Vietnam vets also paid tribute to the USS Battleship New Jersey that served in the War. The last and the loudest of all our vets are the Iraq and Afghanistan post 9/11 vets. They still have that can do – kick butt energy needed to take on any challenge. Much like the same soldiers did in WW1, WW2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War. It’s all part of that unique American get it done mind set that makes the USA the greatest military force in world history. Thank you for our vets to help us get there.

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Plenty of Scardiecats at the Village Halloween Parade

1 Nov

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One of the best things about Halloween in New York City is the annual Halloween parade in Greenwich Village. It’s really an event like no other in the world and should be on your bucket list. All you need is a costume and a desire to scare or want to be scared and you can march in the biggest Halloween parade/party on the planet. It’s also one of the few parades that happen at night. This years theme was Reverie and included some amazing art work in the form of puppetry and costume. Artistic director and producer, Jeanne Fleming, works tirelessly with a great group of volunteers that transforms 6th Ave. in the Village to a stunning visual landscape for 3 hours. Hundreds of thousands of spectators fill up the parade route to watch some of the most creative costumes that  New Yorkers can come up with and this year they were not disappointed.

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As usual the angels in white initiated the parade with their magic dust and spreading blessings to all the viewers young and old. Then the fun started with a parade of skeleton puppets greeting crowd. Two huge puppet snakes began chasing each others tails while the Reverie group displayed their images. A group with a Wake Up the Sleeping theme showed up with lots of colorful images. The parade has a few perennial favorite groups that always put on a good show. The Hungry March Band show why they are always one of the best bands to get the party started. A group that gets a lot of attention is the Samba NY Band with their upbeat music and great dancing. Everyone’s favorite group is the Thriller group that dances to Michael Jackson’s Thriller song with moves right out of the famous video. That group keeps growing in size every year. There were lots of great floats this year but the new arrival from MAC, the cosmetics giant, made a big splash especially with all their creative makeup designs. Hordes of Halloween costumers made their way up their up the parade route with plenty of Presidential themed messages. New Yorkers tell it like it is whether you like it or not. And this parade is one of the events that helps make New York the greatest city in the world. Scare ya later.

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Scare ya next year!!!

 

Rain Doesn’t Damper Spirits at the Hispanic Day Parade

10 Oct
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Military Veterans proudly display Latino Flags

A morning of showers kept many revelers home and had the marchers on edge about marching in wet raw weather but after a minor delay, the 52nd annual Hispanic Day parade got started up the parade route on 5th Ave. from 45th to 65th Sts. Normally this parade draws over a million revelers with marchers coming from many parts of the US and Latin American countries. This is a display of culture and contribution of Latinos from over 19 countries have made to this great nation. Macys and the Daily News award the group with best representation with an prize for their costumes and performance. Although the crowds were not as large as in previous years, the marchers were having a fun time dancing their native and traditional dances. As usual the lead country is Spain as she is considered to be the Mother country of Latinos after the colonial conquest all throughout the Western hemisphere. There was an equal amount of representation of native Indians and of the African influence in Hispanic culture. Typically, this parade starts of alphabetically with Argentina and Bolivia kicking things off.

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Parade Beauty Queens

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Carnaval Costumer from Barranquilla Colombia

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Panamanian Dancers

Although there was no tango dancing this year, the Argentinians did display their gaucho costumes while the Bolivians did have some high energy dancing with the Indian influenced tinkus getting things started. A group of cowboys from Chile showed of their costumes and dance moves.   The Colombians showed off their native dances mostly cumbia.  There was a Carnaval group from Colombia dressed up in comical costumes that ended up winning the big award for the event. Costa Rica and Dominican Republic had some traditional representations. Ecuador had some nice costumes and beauty queens. Two marching bands were in from El Salvador that were pretty good. One was a sharply dressed group called Banda El Carbonero from NY and the other was a group up from Maryland that also displayed a group of military veterans.  Honduras had some colorful costumes and sent a soccer hero. Mexico usually some traditional dancers and the chinelos group but the rain kept them away this year. Nicaragua had some cute costumes as well but had seen better in years before.

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Banda El Carbanero Having Fun

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Uruguayan Candombe Drummers

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Bolivian Tinkus in Full Force

Every year, the group from Panama sends many bands from their native land. It must be a great treat for many of the band members visiting for the first time. The first group was from the Soyuz School. They were very good. The next one was even better from the Banda Cristiana de Panama…Loved their outfits. There was a group from Paraguay showing off their traditional dances. Usually the dancers balance 3 bottles on their head but the wind gusts limited the bottle count to only one this year. There were a few Peruvian dancing groups but the best one had to be the traditional dancers. Uruaguay always sends their condombe conga drummers with their sexy dancers. Venezuela has been getting better in sending more groups and floats to represent their culture. Closing out the parade was more bands from Panama including the Colegio Felix Oliveras Contreras soon followed by the Banda San Miguel Arcangel with traditional dancers. Saving the best for last was the Banda Internacional Apacolipsis with their devilish red costumes..they were scorching hot. Even though the weather was not great for a  parade day, the spirits were flying high and Latinos from every nation would be very proud.

German Bands and Beer Make For Great Fun at the Steuben

19 Sep
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Traditional Costumes of Germany

Mid-September is when people of German descent in the Tri-State area gather together and celebrate the birthday of a Revolutionary War hero, Baron von Steuben. In it’s 59th year, the Steuben Parade is also a time to display unity and friendship with native Germans and their German-American counterparts. This year’s Grand Marshall, ice skating champion, Katarina Witt made her way up the parade route on 5th Ave. to the reviewing stand on 78th St.  She was announced by an annual favorite, the German Air Force Band. One of the best displays of unity was the Steuben Association of the NYFD hosting their German Firemen counterparts. They marched right behind each other as brother and sisters in arms. Both dedicated to protecting and serving others in harms way. I did get a kick out of the police car used by Germans …made a Smart car look like a Suburban. The first of many beer floats made its way up the parade route as there was a huge tent in Central Park that had a big Oktoberfest celebration that coincided with the big one going on in Munich the same day. Many dancers and marchers dressed in traditional German attire were happy to stop by for a quick photo op.

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Carnaval Costumers

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The Little Car That Could….

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German and American Unity

One of the best things about the Steuben is we get treated to hear German bands play their marching songs or even a few American favorites. Stadtkapelle Offenburg played a Jersey Boys favorite tune.  They were soon followed by a newer group that played well. Zierte Jonge Niederzier got the crowd excited for what would be the scene stealer with the marching band clad in all white from Fanfarenzug Potsdam. They really did a fantastic job and got the crowd worked up. Keep in mind the Steuben is by far one of the most polite parades in NY. Yes there will be a hoot and a holler once in a while but for the most part people just applaud and wave…yawn. The beer floats definitely pick things up whenever there is a lull in the flow. There were easily a dozen beer floats and every one of those was having a good time. One of the best floats was in honor of the German contribution to film making. Annual crowd favorites continue to be the Volkswagon cars from Long Island, the German dobermans, and the Carnaval costumers. Americans from German descent came from New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to share in the friendship and unity and of course…beer.

Feathers Flying From Festive West Indian Parade

6 Sep

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Every year on Labor Day, Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn turns into one of the largest parties of West Indian nations with over a million revelers coming out for good food, good music and lots of masqueraders. Once you step onto Eastern Parkway around 11am, the aroma of jerk chicken, fried fish, and curried goat entice your senses into having a taste of some delicious food. I stopped by Trini Marv’s kiosk for some roti. They’ve been there for 25 years strong and as usual I was not disappointed.  The start of the parade began with the procession of flags from all the West Indies nations. Then the first of many politicians arrived with Honorary Grand Marshall NY State Gov. Andrew Cuomo leading the way. After a half hour delay, Mayor DeBlasio arrived. No surprises there. A pleasant surprise was when the NYPD band float got into the day long party. Their steel drum section was on point. The fun kept on going with colorful costumes, marching bands and dancers coming from afar as Jamaica and French Guyana. They got the crowd worked up for what would be arriving next….the monster trucks and masqueraders.

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No other parade in NYC has monster trucks with monster speakers blaring favorite songs of the Caribbean community.  You can follow your favorite truck from Utica Ave. for 4 miles to Washington Ave. and hop on a train ride back to Utica Ave. and start it all over again. The Haitian truck had one of the largest followings of the 8 hour long parade. The Freaks Mas group had some great costumes and fine masqueraders. The Last Tribe Group had an amazing display of costumes. A real unique group was the Enchanted Garden with beautiful butterflies, parrots, and peacocks. One of the largest groups is the crowd favorite Ramajay Mas with their Travel The World representation with groups from exotic locals all over the world. All groups made their way to the judges panel over on Washington Ave. for a presentation of their groups theme and costume. This parade one of NYC’s best parades and should be on your bucket list no matter what your country of origin is. If you like to have fun, this is the parade to go to.

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Indians Glowing in Pride and Love of Country

22 Aug
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Ghandi lookalike

The parade route along Madison Ave. was buzzing with thousands of revelers waiting for the festivities to begin. In this version of the 36th celebration of Indian independence, the crowd was not disappointed with a wonderful display of culture, color and dance. Outside of India, this is the largest celebration of independence with well over a hundred thousand people coming out to show their love of country. Plenty of flags were waving as the crowd was eagerly awaiting Grand Marshall and Bollywood celebrity Abhishek Bachchan to make his way to the reviewing stand along 28th St. and Madison Ave. He was greeted with the ovation of a superstar by his loving fans. Then things got a bit louder when a crowd favorite, Jai Bharat, marched down the parade route with drums banging loud and proud. They really got things worked up. An annual favorite local band from Secaucus, NJ, Swamibapa Pipe Band made their way down the parade route. Another drum band that really had a fun time was Jallosh with their traditional costumes and dance. This group has grown over the years.

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Jai Bharat getting down

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Bollywood Actor Abhishek Bachchan

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Swamibapa Pipe Band

India is a nation that is very spiritual and sent many representatives to display their love and devotion to humankind. Chief Guest Yoga guru Baba Ramdev made his appearance along with other spiritual groups.  These groups had plenty of signs to bring awareness to onlookers. There was a good mix of traditional costume with modern dance and none was better evident than the Sling float. They were very energetic and got the crowd really worked up. After the parade there was a stage set up more dancing and singing right next to Madison Square Park and even more importantly there was some great Indian food right around the corner from the stage.  Yumyum.

 

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