Blooming Bright Bonnets Abound at the Easter Parade on 5th Ave.

17 Apr

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The unusually warm weather brought out a huge crowd this year for an original New York City tradition, the Easter parade. Since the Gilded Age of the 1880s, New Yorkers have dressed up to the nines and casually walked up 5th Ave. with the latest fashions. Today, the tradition has evolved into a combination of well dressed celebrants and creative expressions of bonnets and top hats. The blocks from 49th St. to 55th St. are blocked off where street entertainers and music fill the air on a day of celebration. New Yorkers from 3 to 93 or more continue to show some of the best creativity in the country. Some pets enjoy bringing their owners to the parade so they can show off how cute they can look. If you have never been to this parade, it is one of the most colorful and creative you will experience. Hope you enjoy the photos as much as I had taking them.

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Scots Turn 6th Ave Into a Tartan Panorama

9 Apr

 

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Colorful Tartans on Display

The culmination of a week long celebration of Scottish contribution to American culture and the passing on of tradition ends with the Tartan Parade up 6th Ave. In a glorious display of Scottish pride and colorful tartans, this young parade is gaining more popularity. In it’s 19th year, the Tartan Parade is well known for having one the largest displays of bagpipe bands from the Tri-State region, Scotland and Canada. The sun soaked day gave the marchers and viewers a hint of the nice spring weather soon arriving. As usual, the mounted police gave the signal for the parade to start.  The honorary opening pipe and drum marching band were the US Cadets from West Point, NY.  They were pretty good and warmed up the crowd for what would be an amazing show of Scottish culture and tradition.  This years Grand Marshall, Tommy Flanagan, of Sons of Anarchy fame, greeted the crowd and took his place to review the festivities on a large tour bus on 56th St.

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Grand Marshall Tommy Flanagan

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Start of the Tartan Parade

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Shamrock & Thistle make their mark 

One of the pipe bands to kick off the day of celebration were the NY Caledonian Club Pipe Band. They were impressive. Soon after them were the NY Metro Pipe Band straight out of Brooklyn. A perennial favorite is the Shamrock & Thistle Pipe and Drums Band from Ocean County NJ. Their colorful yellow and black tartans always sets them apart from the crowd. Besides they can really play. One of the best things about this parade is the invited bands that come in from Scotland. This year Oban HS Scotland band made their country proud. A crowd favorite has always been the display of Scottish and West Highland Terriers. The dogs always bring their owners to the parade so they can show off their Scottish pride. A pleasant surprise was the Middlesex County, NJ Police Pipes and Drum Band. As usual, the lamest interpretation of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, made an appearance. Really, they should give it a rest. This year, the parade organizers saved the best for last with special guests from Scotland. St. Columba’s School Kilmalcolm made quite an impression both during and after the parade. In keeping with tradition, pipe and drum bands get together for a spontaneous jam right on 56th St. They play until the police kick them out. This year, there was a fun drum battle and a version of Amazing Grace that was a joy to capture. The Tartan parade was truly a fun parade and the Scottish hearts had plenty to be happy about.

 

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See Ya Next Year

Greek Independence Turns 5th Ave. Blue

27 Mar
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Greek Presidential Guard, Evzones

The threat of rain didn’t put a damper on the spirits of thousands of Greeks lining the parade route on 5th Avenue and waving their blue and white flags in celebration of their 196th year of Independence.  This parade claims to be the largest celebration outside of Greece and is televised both locally and internationally to millions of viewers back in the homeland of Greece.  A stage and grandstand on 68th St. were set for parade VIPs, Grand Marshalls and Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.  Parade founders, The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, have been doing a great job for the last 79 years in organizing the many groups and churches in putting on a joyful event.  As always, the mounted police signal the start of the parade soon followed by parade VIPs, Mayor DiBlasio, NY Senator Schumer and Grand Marshall Ivan Savvidis and Dr. George Yancopoulos.  One of the perennial favorites is the Greek Presidential Guard, Evzones, marching with their distinctive uniforms and high step march.

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Senator Schumer, Archbishop Demetrios and Mayor DiBlasio

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Traditional Costumers

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Celebrating Tradition

Traditional costumes was displayed by the Greek American Folklore Society. Greeks are a very religious people and many Greek Orthodox Churches in the Tri-State area send their representatives to the parade. Many Greek regional groups including Cyprians and Cretians had a large presence and were very boastful. Of course, it’s not a parade unless there’s a marching band. The All-City marching Band was one of the first bands to make their way on to the parade route. It’s always great to see members of St. Nicholas Church, a small church directly on Ground Zero that remained intact.  A new group that made a nice impression was Eponoah with traditional costumes and music. They were soon followed by another perennial favorite, the Plato School Marching Band from Brooklyn. They’re always fun to watch. Back on the main stage, a young group of traditional dancers showed off their moves to the delight of the viewers.  This was a fun parade to watch and had to make my way to Uncle Nick’s Greek Cuisine on 29th and 8th Ave for some delicious Greek food.

Warm Irish Brew Melts the Ice at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade

18 Mar

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Just a few days after a messy mid-March Noreaster dumped ice and snow on the streets of New York City, 5th Avenue was changed into a sea of green. Over a million people came out to celebrate the 255th version of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  There’s always been a strong bond between Ireland and New York City. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and also the patron saint of the archdiocese of New York City where millions of Catholics call home. The parade helps bring unity between the people of Ireland and New York. Each county in Ireland is represented with their proud tribute to St. Patrick by raising their banners high. As usual in these large parades, the NYPD Mounted Guard signaled the start of the parade. The crowd was getting worked up on a chilly morning in anticipation for a fun-filled day.  They were not let down as the traditional show of force kicked off the parade with the true Fighting Irish, the Army 69th Regiment,  marching up 5th Ave.  Soon after, parade Grand Marshall Michael J Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, made his appearance. This marks the first time a hospital head served as the Grand Marshall of this historic parade. Glad to see he is in good health because in this parade everyone marches. There are no floats or cars. Just plenty of pipe and drum bands and marching bands celebrating an important event in NYC. As a display of unity, the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drum Band got things started. They were great. That section had both NYPD and Garda Siochana (Guardians of the Peace of Ireland) marching together.

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Each county in Ireland sends their representatives to march in the parade. This year Donegal started things off. A family that always goes to the parade, the half-mad McLaughlin’s from Brooklyn always whoop it up when they see their county march up 5th Ave. They are a blast to hang with even if it’s for a few minutes. Next to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has some of the best marching bands from all over the country on display. The first to make their way were the Vikings from Vernon NJ. They were really good. Right behind them came the Air Force Junior ROTC from Randolph-Macon in Virginia. They displayed all 50 state flags. The hits kept coming when the Stratford CT HS Marching Band showed their drum line skills. Impressive.

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The parade has always had an international appeal to it and this year the Badad de Lorient from Brittany France really got the crowd worked up. They were mixed in with the Spanish section. This is the 6th year the Asturia section sends their Spanish bagpipe band. They were excellent. Not to be outdone were the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drum Band. They always put on a great show and warm the hearts of many Irish. One part of the parade that always hits home is when the 343 group march. These are firefighters that carry 343 US flags representing the number of firefighters that made the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11. It really is an amazing and patriotic sight to see. They were followed by family members of lost ones carrying photos of their loved ones.

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Two of the better marching bands are perennial favorites. They have the best uniforms and can really play well. The first was the Highlander Band from West Milford NJ with a mashup of both traditional marching band music and bagpipes. Great job. A yearly favorite came down from Londonderry New Hampshire. They were fired up for the parade. Pipe and drum bands from both Suffolk and Nassau Counties in Long Island did a great job.  The Golden Eagles Marching Band from Ohio and Desoto Central HS Marching Band from Mississippi were having lots of fun at the parade. They made their schools proud. If this is any indication of how the 2017 parade season will be, it will surely be a memorable year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rooster Crows Twice In a Weekend

6 Feb
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Year of The Rooster

While many shoppers were getting ready for a usual busy weekend in Flushing Queens, Main St. was being taken over by a fun celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year. This is one of the biggest holidays in China and for all its immigrants the world over. Flushing has the distinction of being the most diverse neighborhood in the country with a large Asian population. The fun started early….around 11am the first of the groups kicked off the parade at Union Ave. and 37th St. and ended up on Main St. This parade is more symbolic of the diverse neighborhood with Chinese, Koreans, Taiwanese, Malaysians, and more joining in to celebrate the Year of the Rooster (4714th year in China). Actually, 2017 is the female red chicken with lots of references to wealth, luxury, and beauty. So a few more spa visits may be in order for 2017.

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Dragons on the Loose

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Feeding the Lions Lettuce

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A crowd favorite has always been the World Journal group with their double dragons greeting the crowd. They were great and got the crowd warmed up for a young group from the DCH Racing group and their dancing lions tossing some lettuce leafs to the crowd for prosperity and good luck. The anchor of the group with the largest participation is the Falun Dafa  group. They have one of the best marching bands in the city. So it was a treat to watch them and hear their message of peace and tranquility.  After the last of the group marched on, everyone gathered for the traditional firecracker explosions to bring in the New Year with a bang. Lots of parade fans ending up heading over to Prince St. for some of the best Asian food in the city. But wait, there’s more…..the celebration started on Flushing on Saturday and ended up the following day in Chinatown. Many Flushing residents just hopped on the #7 train and transferred  at Grand Central for the #6 local train to Canal St. where the party was even more colorful and louder.

Flushing Parade Photos

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Dancing Lions Roam in Chinatown

A makeshift stage was set up on Mott and Hester St. where Chinatown and Little Italy converge. Parade VIPS and city officials meet and proclaim glad tidings in the New Year. US Senator of NY Chuck Schumer gave a popular speech about how important a role immigrants have had on the city and country and that he would continue to fight the President on issues like this one. The crowd loved it. Once all the greetings were done the traditional feeding of lettuce to the dancing lions was made. Lettuce leafs were flying all over the place. I got to meet parade chairman, Steven Tin for a bit and he was very happy how the event turned out. And he should be proud. Every year the crowd gets bigger. Then the fun started with the perennial favorite Staten Island Lions getting the crowd worked up. Plenty of folks rubbed the lions head and eyes for good luck. It’s always great to see the kids get involved and every year Families with Children from China make puppets of the animal associated with the years celebration. There were plenty of roosters making some noise from that group. The display of exotic cars keeps growing with more horsepower revving it up.

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Parade Chairman Steven Tin

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Double Dragons

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Rising Roosters

Making their loud entrance for their first year at the parade, the all female drum group Batala made their way on to the parade route. They were great and got the crowd ready for the big entrance of the double dragons. It takes about a dozen people to hold up each dragon so they can weave their way and greet the fans. This was a more colorful parade than the one in Flushing the previous day but just as much fun. The parade ended up in Roosevelt Park where  there was more entertainment and vendors for all to enjoy. I couldn’t pass up going to Wo Hop on  17 Mott St. for some great Chinese food.

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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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