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Love Wins At the Biggest Pride Parade in NYC

25 Jun

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     The month long tribute to Pride ended with the largest parade the city has seen to date.  With close to 2 million loud people lining the new parade route, it was sure to be one of the best parades so far and that it was.  As a test run to next years big 50th anniversary of Stonewall and already labeled as WorldPride, the new parade route started on 16th St. and 7th Avenue and worked its way down to Christopher St. over to 8th St. and turned up 5th Avenue. It was in reverse direction than in previous years. It seemed to worked although there were a few lags here and there but that’s to be expected with well over 100 floats making its way to the parade. Pride has by far the largest corporate sponsorship of any parade with all affirming their Pride with the marchers and revelers. The first weekend of summer was typically hot and brought out the biggest parade crowd.  Usually the mounted police signal the start of the parade, but come noon time the Sirens MC revved up their motorcycles and got the crowd worked up for a day of love.

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Love Wins

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Stonewall Inn

 

Grand Marshall tennis legend and activist Billie Jean King waved to the adoring crowd. Soon after were fellow Grand Marshalls Kenita Placide , and Tyler Ford. Lambda Legal had a large group bringing awareness to legal issues to the LGBT community. A favorite part of the parade is when the original Stonewall Veterans wave to the crowd. The parade route has always passed by the Stonewall Inn where riots broke out on June 28, 1969 and is considered to be the start of the Gay Rights Movement. I did have to look across the street from the Stonewall just to make sure the flag was raised high, even though your Federal government attempted to disown the flag down just days before the biggest event celebrating Pride.

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Taking Pride In Flight

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Flag From Orlando

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Showing Their Pride

 

Once the parade VIPs and local politicians greeted the crowd, that’s when the fun started. Marchers displayed some of their best outfits and makeup and plenty of love and pride to go with it. A perennial favorite is the Delta float and crowd. Aside from the lovely attendants that get the crowd worked up, they also displayed one of the largest handmade rainbow flags of the parade. The flag was created shortly after the Orlando massacre at Pulse nightclub in 2016 and was proudly displayed by a group of about 50 people.

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Pumping Out Some Good Tunes

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Flaggots Turning It Out

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Spinners Having Fun

 

There was more solidarity with law enforcement than in previous years. The relationship between the police and the LGBT community has always been contentious but this year, NYPD and FDNY sent their representatives to the parade. Even the FBI sent a small group to show their Pride. With over 100 floats and corporate sponsors, there was plenty to cheer about. With every corner of the world celebrating their Pride, the international section was having a great time. Of course a parade just isn’t a parade without a marching band and the highlighted band every year is the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps Marching Band. They always do it the right way. Not too far behind them were the crowd favorite Flaggots showing off their moves. They were so good I had to show their moves off twice.

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Love wins over and over again. With as much hate that has been spewed from the top down, it’s even more important now than ever for all people to unite and join in this special day filled with Pride. I walked away from this parade proud to be New Yorker and a little deaf with all the loud music and screaming but it was the most fun of any parade so far.  And if you think this was a fun parade, wait until next year’s for WorldPride.   The BIG 50!!!

 

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SEE YA NEXT YEAR FOR PRIDEWORLD!!

 

A Whale Of A Fun Time at The Mermaid Parade in Coney Island

17 Jun
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Lots of Whale Watching

     Billed as the largest art parade in the nation, the 36th annual Mermaid Parade kicked off at 1pm on Surf Ave. and 21st St. in Coney Island, Brooklyn.  Every culture has their own way of bringing in a new season and the NY way of bringing in summer can only be at one place, the Mermaid Parade where thousands of marchers from all over the country put on their best interpretation of sea creatures. On one of the warmest days of the year so far in NYC, close to 800,000 flocked their way to the parade route to catch a glimpse of some the most creative and artistic displays NY offers.  As usual, Mermaid Parade founder, Dick Zigun leads the parade beating his drum and leading a brass band right past the reviewing stand by MCU Ballpark where the minor league Cyclones play baseball. There is a large group of very eager judges waiting for bribes so they can cast a favorable vote to many of the hundreds of participants. Each year has a Queen Mermaid and King Neptune to be honored as the celebrity guests of the parade and this year a beautiful couple with great artistic influence graced the parade route. Rock star Amanda Palmer and multi-talented Neil Gaiman with their beautiful daughter waved to the crowd to get the parade started in what would be an amazing display of creativity.

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Founder Dick Zigun Getting Ready 

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Queen Mermaid Amanda Palmer and King Neptune Neil Gaiman

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Heading to the Beach

 

     A parade of classic cars got things rolling. The Camaro is always are crowd favorite. Waves and waves of sea creatures came marching in to the delight of the crowd. The parade also honors it’s predecessor, The Coney Island Mardi Gras Parade, which was quite popular in the early 1900s. Marchers pay tribute to that era by dressing up or hardly for the burlesque and Vaudeville tribute. It’s always great to see groups get together for a special event like this. One of the groups to get the crowd worked up were the Big Apple Babes with a nice dance routine. They were awesome. Right behind them came the thunderous drum beat of the all-female drum band Fogo Azul. The crowd went nuts when they did their show. A well choreographed group were The Tail Shakers and that they did.  They were a fun group.

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Marni With A Message

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Two Classy Mermaids Always Dress For The Occassion

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Mermaid Arrives to Steal Some Breathes Away

    There’s always a group that changes their theme each year but they always leave a lasting impression. This year the Salmon Witch Trayls knocked it out the park with their awesome dance routine that left the crowd wanting more. NYers have always been rebellious by nature. When the MTA announced that the L train service to Manhattan would be suspended for 15 months beginning in April 2019 lots of people freaked out. So it’s only natural an L Train Brass Band would unite and sing a protest song at the parade.  Only in NY. A perennial favorite and this years best float had the be the Rockaway Mermaid Brigade. They brought out a huge whale with a singer on top while the group danced and had a great time below. They were awesome and set the bar high for years to come…even though many of them were waiting for the parade to end so they can go to a bar. Great job Rockaway. This was one of the best parades of the year so far and should definitely be on your bucket list. Have a great summer of fun everyone.

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Puerto Ricans Turn Celebration Into Remembrance

11 Jun
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Mourning Those Lost After Hurricane Maria

      The parade route along 5th Avenue was getting louder as the 61st annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade was due to kick off around 11am. This is one of the largest and loudest parades the city offers with marchers coming in from all around the country and groups coming in from the island of Puerto Rico as a show of unity. Many signs along the parade route were a reminder of the devastation Hurricane Maria inflicted on the island. The more popular ones were Puerto Rico Se Levanta (Puerto Rico will Rise) and signs with the numbers 4,645+, an estimate of the total death count from September 20 through December 31, 2017, as conducted by a recent study from Harvard University. This figure has turned into a rallying cry as another example of the disparity of what has been reported by the Federal response, which is 64 deaths, and what is actually happening on the island.  New York Representative Nydia Velazquez has called on Congress to create an independent commission to investigate the true mortality rate and hurricane responsiveness and preparation so that the painfully slow response and recovery does not happen again. NY heavyweights like NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo and NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, in a pre-parade breakfast, supported the creation of the commission. Meanwhile, there are about 11,000 homes in Puerto Rico still without power and it might take another two months for full restoration, that is, if another hurricane doesn’t hit by then. This is unacceptable and part of that frustration was clearly visible by both the marchers and parade viewers.  As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade with much excitement and lots of noise from the crowd to get things started.

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A Call For Accountability

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Grand Marshall Esai Morales

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Radio Personalities Lulu and Lala

 

     The NYPD Marching Band got things kicked off soon followed by parade dignitaries and politicians letting the crowd know they were there to help push the recovery effort. The parade was also a big chance to honor all the first responders that volunteered their time to help in a time of need. Nurses, firefighters, energy repair technicians, truck drivers all had a hand in the initial phase of the recovery. But more needs to be done. NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo got the most love from the crowd since he has been a champion for the disaster relief effort since the beginning. Both NY State and City had sent trucks and personnel to restore power to thousands of homes and help in the clean-up effort.  But there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. After the politicians left, then the party started. The first of the music floats to arrive were The Jara from the NYPD Hispanic Society. Each year, the various pueblos in PR send their representatives to march. Although the headcount was down for obvious reasons, Morovis and Salinas had the biggest groups and were shown much love by the crowd.

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What A Beautiful Flag!!

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Mr. and Mrs. Jorge Posada

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Representing the Heroes

 

     Honorees of the parade rolled down in convertible cars with the crowd cheering them on and taking plenty of pictures.  Leading the way was Grand Marshall Esai Morales, leading man in several movie and TV hits like Chicago PD and La Bamba. He has helped breakdown stereotypes of Hispanic roles throughout the years.  Soon after came former Miss Universe 2006, Zuleyka Rivera, Queen of the Parade.   Famed news reporter, David Begnaud, was also honored for his outstanding reporting on the island after Hurricane Maria’s aftermath.  Lawyer and TV personality from The View, Sunny Hostin, got her dream come true to be honored as  an Ambassador. My personal favorite honoree, former NY Yankee catcher Jorge Posada and his wife were honored for their work in helping cure a disease their son was afflicted with.  Local radio stations were all present, both English and Spanish with KTU twin hosts Lulu and Lala making the biggest splash. Puerto Ricans love their music and dance. Many dance groups show up to show off their moves. One group that stood out was a small but energetic group dancing to a parade favorite song…Que Bonita Bandera (Such a Beautiful Flag).

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A Rallying Cry for those Lost

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Beauty Queen Enjoying the Parade

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Costumes of Vejigantes

 

     Every now and then we get a special treat and this parade was no exception. A float with Tito Puente Jr. arrived led by the Eddie Torres Jr. dance group.  Both were on their A game and showed the crowd the beauty of and fun of music and dance done the Puerto Rican way ..con mucho sabor…(done in great taste and style). Both men carried on the torches of their legendary fathers in their way. That truly was one of the best highlights of the parade. A perennial favorite is the NYS Nurses Associations float with their live band and sizzling singer. They always get the crowd worked up. As a change of pace to the usual blaring brass and rhythmic drum beats was a tribute to the most romantic music. The Tuna Mayaguenzana float had a dozen singers reminiscing of the beauty of the island through Boleros.   That was a nice treat especially for the older folks that heard that music growing up on the island. Another crowd favorite is the Taino Towers float from El Barrio in Spanish Harlem. This year, they made their own version of the Santana hit Maria,Maria.  The lower East Side of NYC is home to a group of Puerto Ricans from Loiza and their group came to represent with a colorful float and fun dancers and drummers.  They were a lot of fun and played to the crowd well.  One of the best dance groups of the parade is XDance. The crowd always gives them much love for the great choreography and dance costumes.

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Working The Crowd

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XDance Having Fun

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Resistance Moving Forward

 

     In between all the fun dance floats were reminders of the suffering of the devastation and the slow response to the disaster of Hurricane Maria.  It was also a call for action to help continue the efforts to support the people of Puerto Rico by doing anything you can. Joining a group, or volunteer your time in an effort to help our fellow Americans. Even contacting your local representatives to apply more pressure for help to Puerto Rico. This is not an issue that can be forgotten or swept under the rug because  another topic made it to the news cycle. As the parade winded down, it made me proud to be a native New Yorker and even more proud to have a strong heritage that will not allow obstacles whether natural or man-made get in the way. Yo Soy Boricua Pa Que Tu Lo Sepa!!

 

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See You Next Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Display of Culture and Pride at the Philippine Parade on Madison Ave.

4 Jun
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Flew In For A Celebration

     After a quick jog from the Israeli parade on 5th Ave. to Madison Ave., the 28th annual Philippine Independence Day Parade was well under way with lots of colorful costumes and beauty queens in convertible cars. Although there was some internal controversy earlier in the year, the parade sponsors, PIDCI, decided to move forward and elected to name Grand Marshalls Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Dr. Restitio Estacio and Ambassador Mario Lopez de Leon Jr. for the event. The parade commemorates the 120th year of Independence from Spain and displays cultural pride and contributions to the fabric of the city. Once the mounted police signal the start of the parade, all dignitaries, VIPs and parade sponsors make their way to the reviewing stand between 30th and 29th Sts., which happens to be one of the best spots to watch the parade. All of the marchers and performers make their presentation at the reviewing stand but get there early as it fills up quickly. Marchers come from all parts of the Tri-state area to participate in one of the largest parades of its kind outside the Philippines.

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Dr. Restie Gives His Approval

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One of Many Beauty Queens

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Iloilo Dancers Showing Off Their Moves

 

     Marchers help to bring light to many social issues, including human trafficking and either pro or against Philippine President Duterte. There were many floats with beauty queens and celebrities from the Philippines. Each year in January, a big festival happens in the Philippines for best dance and cultural representation. The winner of that festival is usually flown to NYC to be the main attraction of the parade. This years winner were from the Iloilo Dinagyang Festival and  they did put on a grand show for everyone. The groups lead held a representation of the Santo Nino (Holy Child) while the dancers had amazing costumes and had a fun time dancing and getting everybody worked up. After the parade wraps up, everyone heads over to 25th St. where there plenty of food kiosks and then to Madison Square Park where a stage was set up for the Festival and more entertainment.  Once again the group from Iloilo stole the show.

 

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Happy Independence Day

Israelis Turn 5th Ave, Into a Sea of Blue and White

4 Jun
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Celebrating In Style

     June is a busy parade month with major parades celebrated throughout the city. The first Sunday of the month has two parades going on in close proximity. The first leg of the dual parade day was the 54th annual Celebrate Israel parade on 5th Ave. starting from 55th St to 74th St. Thousands of marchers and revelers came out to celebrate the nation of Israel and all its contributions to NYC and the US. Security was extra tight with all the heightened tensions after the US decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem recently. Every large marching group had their own security detail and NYPD deployed the bike patrol to ensure everyone’s safety.  Better safe than sorry. The usual protesters were confined to a block in front of the Plaza Hotel where a heavy police presence maintained order and kept the parade moving so that the celebration of the 70th year of Israel as a nation continued without disruption.   The mounted police signaled the start of the parade with this years theme for all participants being Sababa, which means super, fantastic, awesome. Bestowed with the high honor of sending notice to all present with the sounding of the ceremonial Shofar was Stanley Hochhauser, riding on the backseat of the convertible cruising up the parade route on 5th Ave.

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Taking Pride In Israel

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Raider Drummers Doing Their Thing

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Traditional Wear In Celebration

 

     This parade is known for all the colorful handmade banners displaying the years theme made by the many groups participating. Many banners were very creative and colorful. The parade gives all the local politicians a chance to meet with the crowd and put some good words in with potential voters. The Israeli Government also sends a delegation to greet the crowd and make the day more festive.  Some of the better drum and bugle bands from the area get to show off their moves. A perennial favorite is the Raiders Drum and Bugle Band from Burlington, NJ. Not to be outdone were the Bushwackers Drum and Bugle Band from Princeton, NJ. They were both excellent and helped make the event a memorable one. Everyone that witnessed a marvelous display of culture and pride would agree this years theme was felt by all. Israel, you are Sababa!  I had to leave  the Israeli Parade ahead of schedule to make it to the second leg of the dual parade day. The Philippine Independence Parade was under way on Madison Ave. near Madison Square Park…Only in NY…Oy Vay.

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Let’s All Celebrate Israel

Rain Doesn’t Stop Celebration at the Dance Parade

20 May
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Dancing Up a Storm

     Mid-spring in NYC is always hit or miss with the rain. This time it was a hit but only for the first half hour of the 12th annual Dance Parade. This years parade was more meaningful because the Dance Parade founder, Greg Miller, teamed up with other advocates and successfully had an outdated Cabaret Law repealed last year. Persistence paid off as people can now dance at any establishment in NYC. Prior to the repeal, dancing was permitted only in establishments that had a cabaret license which was very difficult to obtain. This archaic law went back to the Prohibition Era. So now the only Dance Police you will see is at the Dance Parade where summonses are issued if you’re not dancing to the various grooves from the hundreds of groups participating.  This is one of the best parades in the city because it brings people of all nationalities and cultures together in celebration of the most ancient of art forms…dance.

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Rain Won’t Stop This Parade

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Fogo Azul Having Fun

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Flower Of Hope…Indeed.

 

     The parade starts at 21st St. and Broadway and turns on 8th St. and stops by the judges grandstand at Astor Place and continues on to Tompkins Square Park where there is more dancing displayed on various stages. It really is a great NYC event that should not be missed. After all NYC is the dance capital of the world. The first half hour of the parade had some rain soaked dancers. The Dancing Rubies were a big hit last year but this year they were soggy gems. Getting the parade started were the thunderous sounds of an all female drum ensemble. The fiery Fogo Azul with their signature sound and new dance float got the sparse crowd worked up. Once the rain slowed down, folks came out to take in the sights of the thousands of dancers especially the energetic Bolivian groups including the San Simon Caporales from Virginia. This year had a large group of Chinese dancers with great costumes. A definite crowd-pleaser were the belly dancing Flowers of Hope Group. Soon after them, a perennial favorite really got the crowd worked up, The Samba Art and Culture group led by founder Danielle Lima always gets lots of attention from the crowd with their great choreography and high energy. They always have fun showing off their dance moves. There’s always a few groups that surprise everyone with their dance moves and how much they enjoy the event. Two groups that really brought their A game was the Ukranian Dance group and a local group from Queens, The Petty Queen.   One of the biggest groups in the parade was an amazing group representing Bolivia’s San Simon Caporales USA. There were easily about 200 dancers in the group with some great costumes and traditional dance moves.  Although the rain put a damper at the start of the parade, it closed out with high energy and lots of love for one of our greatest gifts….dance.

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Keeping Up With The Steps…

A Sea of Blue Flags Waving For the Greeks on 5th Avenue

23 Apr

 

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Flying Flags Proudly

     Greek Independence is a long standing tradition celebrated by the hundreds of thousands here in New York City and the millions back in the Motherland of Greece. For the last 80 years, the celebration has turned 5th Ave into a grand spectacle of revelers waving blue and white flags. Usually the parade is celebrated near March 25 when the actual  date of the uprising and successful revolt against the Ottoman Empire in 1821 is remembered.  The Greeks are are a very religious people and since Easter arrived early this year, the parade was moved to April 22. Turns out better since the weather warmed up and allowed thousand of revelers to line up the parade route from 63rd to 78th Sts. on 5th Ave. The event is broadcast live for local television and transmitted out to Greece where millions tune in to watch the event. This years Grand Marshall was none other than NY Governor Andrew Cuomo who has helped the Greek community immensely over the years.  It’s also an election year, so it’s a good move to get more free publicity. The two other Grand Marshalls were the Honorable Madeline Singas, District Attorney of Nassau County and Pantelis Bombouras. As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade while the lead marching band for the last few years, the Greek School of Plato from Brooklyn, got things started.   Parade VIPs and Guests including NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, US Representative Carolyn Maloney, this years Grand Marshalls, and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America,  marched up the reviewing stand on 68th St. to enjoy the annual celebration.

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Parade VIPS Waving to the Crowd

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Evzones Marching up 5th Ave.