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Panamanians Proud of Their Polleras and Bands

11 Oct
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Beautiful Pollera

The largest Independence Day celebration outside of Panama is held every year for the past 22 years on Franklin Ave. in Crown Heights in Brooklyn USA. Each year the marchers and revelers keep growing in size with bands coming in from Maryland, Georgia and from Panama and of course hometown Brooklyn. There are folkloric dancers and women dressed in their traditional polleras with men in guayabera shirts. It is quite spectacular to see how ornate the women dress and follow their tradition. The warm weather had the streets of Franklin Ave. lined up with revelers waiting for things to kick off and once the Elite Riders Motorcycle Club appeared the crowd got revved up.

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Hon. Shawndya Luisa Simpson and Jose Francis

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A grand festival like no other

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Georgia’s In the House

This years Grand Marshalls were presented in pre-parade ceremonies. The Honorable Shawndya Luisa Simpson, current Assistant Attorney General for NY State, and Jose Francis,  Host of Rinconcito Panameno en Nueva York, a popular TV show in the Panamanian community. Once parade VIPs and dignitaries make their way down the parade route, they settle in at the reviewing stand on President Ave. where many bands display their talents.  The lead band came all the way from Colon in Panama and they did not disappoint. A group that was having a lot of fun were the Campesinos Internacional   banging on the congas and having a spirited dance. They were soon followed by a group of folkloric dancers with ladies in their fancy polleras and probably one of the best floats of the parade.

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Lovely Beauty Queen

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The Band Striking It Up

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Proud Display of Flags

One of the best things about this parade is the bands come from all over to play their drums and bugles. It is a unique experience for the many of these marchers since it’s their first time in NYC. Kicking off the proud display of talent was the Jose Santos Foca Banda de Musica soon followed by Monsenor Francisco Beckman Marching Band. They can play with any band from the US. A perennial favorite is the Instituto Jose Dolores Moscote Marching Band. They keep getting better each year. The King of Kings Marching Band and  Banda Evangelica El Elion made their presence known to the very happy and proud crowd. The band that had the best uniform had to go the Panamanian Band from Atlanta. Their red white and blue uniforms got the crowd buzzing. Saving some of the best for last was a newer group, ARCIA, that showed off their precision. Great job. Of course, the host band, the 1st International Panamanian Marching Band of Brooklyn showed why their one of the best. This really was an an amazing parade to witness and one the most festive neighborhood parades this year.  After the parade was over, there was more festivities and food available on Classon Ave. where the party kept on going.

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Que Viva Panama

Hispanics Beaming With Cultural Display on 5th Ave.

11 Oct
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Viva La Hispanidad

The largest display of Hispanic culture in the US occurred this past Sunday on 5th Ave. with over 18 Spanish-speaking nations united to represent their particular customs through costume and dance in the 53rd annual Hispanic Day Parade. October is known as Hispanic Heritage month and this was one huge celebration of all the contributions made to help build this country. NYC is the largest Hispanic city in the country and the parade helps remind revelers of traditional customs from their motherland.  Light rain early on did not stop the hundreds of thousands of revelers from lining up the parade route from 44th to 72nd Sts. The weather cleared up some and the fun started when the mounted police signaled the start of the parade. This years honorary lead group was ARCIA Drum and Bugle Corp. representing Panama. They got things warmed up for a spectacular day of cultural display and unity among nations. After parade VIPs and dignitaries made their way up to the reviewing stand on 64th St., a group of young dancers dressed in traditional Spaniard flamenco attire showed off some of their moves. A surprise display was a mural from Spanish artist Leyton with his homage to Pablo Picasso. The parade always starts off with Spain as the lead group since they were one of the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic to the New World.  Casa Galicia represented Spain with their traditional bagpipe marching band.

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Homage to Picasso

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El Salvador Bringing It

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Panamanian Polleras

 

The sequence of the parade always goes in alphabetical order even though the Bolivians always have more groups than anyone else and scatter them throughout the parade. Argentina displayed a float with a pair of tango dancers and a classy singer pumping out national tunes with heartfelt tones. Bolivians have some of the most diverse of any groups. They have Tinkus with a very energetic dance and colorful costumes and Morenales which have a slower paced dance and the favorite Caporales paying homage to San Simon. Chileans came up the parade route with their Huasos (cowboys) and lovely partners performing a Cueca dance, the National dance of Chile. Then the party really got started when the Colombians made their way up the parade route. Last years Appreciation Award winner returned in full force with the Carnavalers From Baranquilla. They were one of the most energetic groups and proud to show off their magnificent costumes. Soon after them was the traditional Colombian Cumbia dance group. A bit more toned down but still fun to watch. Costa Rica showed off their beauty queen while the Dominican Republic sent their mischievous diablos to crack their whips.

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Spaniards Taking the Lead  

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Dominican Diablos Getting Fired Up

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Bolivian Angels Flying Up the Parade Route

 

 Ecuador had traditional dancers showing their moves. A show stealer was definitely the El Salvador Torito Pinto Marching Band down from Boston. Their marching band was a diverse instrumental band with a large brass band section that tore it up. Guatemala sent a nice band from Trenton, NJ. Honduras had a nice float with traditional dancers. Mexico had a good diverse group with Indians and a nice group performing the Danze de los Tecuanes (dance of the Jaguar). Nicaragua displayed an original artwork of unifying flags from Hispanic nations. Panama always brings a large a proud display of culture. They are very proud of their bugle and drum bands as well as their traditional polleras. It truly was an amazing sight. Paraguay sent their cowboys and cowgirls. They always send a group of ladies performing the folkloric Danza de las Botellas (The Bottle Dance). Peru had a nice group of traditional dancers. Puerto Rico had a group of salsa dancers but more importantly had a large banner of where to donate to help recover from one the most disastrous hurricanes to claim the island. Have no doubt, Puerto Rico will rise even stronger than before. Uruguay had a float with traditional Candombe band but its really better to watch them march and dance instead of riding on a float. Wrapping things up was Venezuela with a nice float and fun dancers.

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Jaguar Scaring the Crowd

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Panamanian Float

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Paraguay Bottle Dancers

 

This was one of the better parades of the year. It showed the diversity and strength of the Hispanic culture. People from all parts of the world come in to march and watch a grand extravaganza that made anyone watching captivated by its glory and passion.

 

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Que Alegria..What Happiness

Polish People Proudly Display Traditions at the Pulaski

2 Oct
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Shall We Dance…

After rain outs the last few years, warm azure blue skies were a perfect backdrop to celebrate the 80th annual Pulaski Day parade. The parade route along 5th Ave. from 36th to 53rd Sts. was lined up with red and white flags as thousands of parade revelers waved their flags. Huge crowds were assembled by the reviewing stand on 41st St. in front of the NY Public Library awaiting the start of the parade and the ceremonial welcoming with bread and salt, (“chlebem i solą” ). There was a group in traditional costume that paired off with parades VIPs to celebrate the start of the parade. Although this parade honors the famous Revolutionary War hero, Casimir Pulaski, around the time of his death on October 11 in the Siege of Savannah, the parade also honored  Tadeusz Kosciuszko as a hero of two nations.  Groups from the Tri-state area came in droves to celebrate and show their Polish pride. As usual the mounted police signaled the start of the parade. The parade was being broadcast back to the homeland in Poland by television and radio. A special treat was when the Polish army marching band played a nice tune for the crowd.

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Let The Fun Begin

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Polish Army Marching Band

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Proudly Displaying Banner

 

The Polish people are a very religious people and had various church groups from all over the area send representatives. There was a big devotion to Pope John Paul II who was of Polish descent. Just about every group sent a Miss Polonia beauty queen to be part of the parade. Two groups that had the largest marchers were the Polish and Slavic Federal Credit Union, the largest ethnic credit union in the country,  and the Unknown Bikers Motorcycle club. Both made lots of noise at the parade.  A fun group to watch was the Traditional Folk Dancers with their waltz like dance and great costumes.  The crowd loved them. Another perennial favorite is the Hawthorne Caballeros Alumni Bugle and Drum Corps. They always play it up for the crowd. One of the more lively floats came from Wallington, NJ with a band playing a tune in Polish.  It was great to see all the traditional costumes and revelers taking in the sights with great pride and love of their motherland.

 

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A Great Parade It Was

                                                            długa żywą polską

Stepping It Up In Harlem for the African American Parade

19 Sep
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Hillside Blue Thunder Kicking Things Off

The second leg of the big parade weekend turned out in Harlem for the 48th annual African American Day Parade. Billed as the largest parade in the nation celebrating Black culture, talent, and contributions to the fabric of this country, this years edition did not disappoint. Another hot day invited well over 800,000 spectators to fill up the parade route on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd from 111th to 135th Sts. The reviewing stand on 125th St near the shadow of the famous Apollo Theater was filled to capacity. This year, announcer Yasmin had her hands full with the hundreds of groups that participated. Some groups came as far as California to share in the celebration. Kicking things off were the Hillside NJ Blue Thunder group with a real nice introduction to what would be a fun filled day. This years parade theme is “Salute To A Better Health” with lots of health related grassroots groups helping raise awareness. This years Grand Marshalls are all prominent physicians and health professionals dedicated to promoting healthy lives. This parade more than any other does promote social agendas to help raise awareness of issues the people of this great city are facing. It’s really inspiring to see so many groups follow in the words of Adam Clayton Powell Jr…”If you believe in cause you must be willing to put yourself on the line for that cause”.   A long time activist, Dr. Lenora Fulani, was getting the crowd for NYCHA to stop pushing out the poor all worked up.  NYC is facing a housing crisis. Gentrification over the last 30 years has pushed people out of their long time homes for “market rate” housing. Although NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio has been a proponent of affordable housing since his administration began, the tide has been clearly set against the poorer residents as landlords look to gain at the expense of others. With a small army of activists, some of the marchers were spreading the word on taking action to prevent further displacement.

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Spreading the Word

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Getting the Drummers In Line

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Best Drum line of the Parade

 

It was great to see organizations like the Vulcan Society Inc, a group of firefighters and EMTs that support community outreach programs and help recruit youth into careers as firefighters and paramedics. A grassroots group that is taking matters into their own hands is the I Am Peace Movement. They work in conjunction with hospitals to reach out to the community about empowering youth. Girl Trek was on beat promoting women to put on their walking shoes and get out and walk. One of the largest groups participating was the Egyptian Masonic Order of the United Nuwaupian Nation. They have some great outfits and a great spiritual message. Right after them was a parade favorite, the Temple Guard Drill Team. They always do a great job.  This parade is known for its high stepper coming in from Baltimore and this years groups did not disappoint. Kicking things off were the Christian Warriors. A nice treat was a group from both California and Baltimore that merged groups. The West Coat and East Coast Westsiders put on a good show for the crowd.   The group that really put on a great show were the Baltimore Entertainers. They got the crowd worked up. Not to be outdone though were the Baltimore All-Stars and Mass Destruction. They all had great costumes, a fierce drum line and some energetic dancers. This was a fun parade with lots of drums music and positive messages. Of course, when in Harlem step on over to any one of the great restaurants in the area. Ruthie’s always gets my vote. Best fried chicken recipe in the neighborhood.

Marching Bands Run the Museum Mile at the Steuben

18 Sep
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Let The Parade Begin

The unusually hot end of summer weather brought out a big crowd for the 60th annual Steuben parade on 5th Ave by the landmark Met Museum. The parade is in honor of Gen Von Steuben, who helped Gen. Washington win the Revolutionary War. It also unites Germans from abroad with those of German decent in the New York area. If you know anything about Germans, they are punctual and as usual, the parade kicked off at 12 noon sharp. The mounted police signaled the start of the parade with the lead German band and the West Point Military band each playing their respective national anthems before the reviewing stand on 78th St. and 5th Ave. As another show of unity the NYFD and their German counterparts marched up the parade route. Aside from the traditional costumes displayed by the hundreds of marchers, one of the best things about this parade is the number of bands brought in from small towns in Germany and surrounding areas to show off their style of marching bands. The first of the region came from the Black Forest in the Musikvecein Unterjettingen group. They set the tone for what would be a fine display of German culture. I have to admit, of all the parades I cover, this is the most polite parade so far.

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Celebrating In Style

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Let’s Have a Cold One

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Endingen Marching Band

 

All the marching bands had their own style and flair to it. The bands from Dresden and Murnau had a steady upbeat tone while Verband der Siebenburger Sachsen was a bit on the slow side. The Wolfenweiler Schallstadt was a group of Germans that settled in the Transylvania region of Europe. Two bands that were pretty good were the SZ Hollenstedt and SZ Bernburg with their airy float and bell sounds. But hands down the band to steal the show was the band from Endingen with their flute, drum and blaring horn section really put on a nice show for the crowd. The Austrian band followed but not in the same league. Mixed in with these marvelous German bands were German beer floats and groups representing all parts of the area, from NY, NJ and Connecticut. A welcome return was the Aqua String Band from Philadelphia, PA. Their Karneval costumes really got the crowd excited.  The crowd favorites made their annual appearance starting with the Doberman dog group, the gymnastic group of the American Turners and of course the Long Island Volkswagon Club. They always get a great welcome from the crowd. After the parade is when the party begins with festivities all throughout the city but the major one is right in Central Park with the Oktoberfest where there’s plenty of great beer on tap.

 

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LANG LEBE DEUTSCHLAND!!!

Colorful Display of Caribbean Culture at the West Indian Day Parade

5 Sep
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It’s Carnival Time 

For the past 50 years, Labor Day on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn turns into a huge festival and display of Caribbean pride, culture, costumes and contribution to the fabric of NYC. The nice weather allowed close to 2 million revelers to come out and join in the fun. This is one the largest and longest parades of the year so far. As soon as you make your way onto Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, the aroma of cooking up some jerk chicken or curried goat or fried fish with rice and peas guides you to some of the hundreds of kiosks preparing some delicious Caribbean meals. The event had it’s history in the 1930s when the pre-Lenten celebrations were held indoors in venues in Harlem. But due to the nature of its celebration, the event had to be held outdoors and eventually made its way to Eastern Parkway. Event organizers, WIADCA, always but on a grand display.  Things got under way early. By 11 AM,  the first of many floats started things off with the NYPD brass band playing some inspired beats to get the crowd ready for  fun-filled day. The parade always draws its share of politicians. Starting off the political show was NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo with Rev. Al Sharpton at his side. This being a mayoral election year, there were many candidates pounding the pavement and asking for votes. Leading the way was current incumbent, Mayor Bill DeBlasio with his wife Charlene.  They were warmly received. It took well over an hour for the politicians to work the crowd but once they were gone, the fun began.  There weren’t as many activists with messages of awareness as in previous years. One group that did stand out was the Mas in Fashion, raising awareness of the evil of human trafficking.

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Fashion March Against Human Trafficking

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New Wave Mas Working the Crowd

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Carnival Time in the City

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Birds of a Feather….

 

The first of several music and costumed floats to make their way down the 2 mile parade route was the New Wave Mas float in their whitewash theme. A large group that made their way down from Massachusetts was the Bajan Paradise float and their sexy masqueraders. They really got the crowd worked up with their version of Vitamin Water. All the masqueraders and music trucks with their massive sound systems make their way to the judges panel just past Washington St. and the Brooklyn Museum. One group having lots of fun with the judges was the Antwine International Group. Then a huge display of color broke out with some amazing presentations for the judges to score. One large group with lots of colorful and energetic costumers were the Stronjeh Float. But not to be outdone, Ramajay Mas always has the best masqueraders and themes. This years theme was Opulence and it really showed in the costumes and floats. This is one of the only parades where you can march and dance with your favorite group until the end of the parade route, hop on a subway for a few stops and start it all over again. One of the best things to see is when the MC of the trucks asks everyone to raise their flags while blasting their favorite tunes. For that moment, all people of the Caribbean nations unite in celebration and what a wild one it was.

 

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Raise Ya Flags!!

Colorful Display of Indian Culture and Celebration on Madison Ave.

22 Aug
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A Day Of Celebration

Billed as the largest Independence Day celebration outside of India, the 37th annual parade made its way down the parade route on Madison Ave. between 36th and 25th Sts. Thousands had gathered to see one of the most colorful parades of the year celebrating the 71st year of Indian independence. This celebration is held in many parts of the US but the one in NYC always draws the largest crowds and the more popular celebrities. Parade sponsors, Federation of Indian Association (FIA-NYNJCT), invited Telegu actor and producer, Rana Dagubati  and actress Tamannah Bhatia, both famous for their roles in the popular film Baahubali: The Beginning. They were well received by the large crowd as they took their place by the VIP review stand on 27th St. Another special treat were the all-female Air India Lady Pilots and crew that became famous for being the first all-female pilots and crew to circle the globe. They received one the loudest applause from the crowd.

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Film Stars Rana Daggubati and Tamannah

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Air India Lady Pilots and Crew

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Jai Bharat Dancers Getting Ready

 

As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade. This year NYC Mayor DeBlasio made a well prepared speech about the contributions of the Indian American community to the city. Soon after the fun started when an annual favorite group, Jai Bharat, marched their way down the parade route. Their enthusiastic drummers got the crowd worked up for a fun-filled day. Soon after them, another drum group that keeps growing every year arrived. Jallosh really had fun with their lively music and dancing. India Idol finalists including Khuda Baksh appeared on a float. Other floats from the Star India Plus had displayed dancers moving to some popular songs.

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Blessings Of All Kinds 

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Jamming on Madison Ave.

 

India is as diverse and spiritual as any land in the world. With many religions, languages, and cultures on display, there still some important issues that were expressed. The Rally For Rivers group had a large group with a vital message to save the rivers from drying up due to global warming and farming issues. They can be contacted at RallyforRivers.org. Other returning groups were the World Yoga Community and the Jains of America group. Closing out the parade was the Christian group with their Biblical messages. All in all it was a fun parade to witness and a proud day for the Indian American community.

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