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Millions of Beautiful Flags Waving on 5th Avenue for the Puerto Rican Day Parade

12 Jun
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Vejigantes Take Over 5th Avenue

     The anticipation was building up on the parade route on 5th Avenue with horns blasting, flags waving, speakers blasting and that was just the crowd. Well over 1 million people attended what parade sponsors named America’s Largest Cultural Event. Celebrating the 62nd year of Puerto Rican culture and contribution to the fabric of this city and our country, the event was televised nationally for millions of viewers. It’s also a chance for people to come up from the island and unite with friends and family and march or dance in one of the largest parades of the year. Before the mounted police signaled the start of the parade, a traditional dance was performed by the stage and reviewing stand on 68th St. to usher in good luck and positive results.

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Cortez Working the Crowd

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Ricky Martin Living La Vida Loca

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Getting Started Early

 

     Parade Grand Marshall Ricky Martin really got the crowd worked up on the loud and proud Loiza float. All throughout the parade, themes of female empowerment were front and center. One proud Bronxite was newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez jogging up the parade route. She got lots of love from the adoring crowd.  A perennial favorite is Bombazo Dance Co. and the salsa band representing the NY State Nurses Association. They were really on point. Getting the crowd to raise their flags in unison was the 1199 SEIU float. There was a significant call for movement for Independence and calls to cancel the debt that has been stifling growth on the island.

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Loiza Dancers Having Fun

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Vieques Marchers Going West Indian Style

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Baton Twirlers Getting Ready

 

     Puerto Rican culture was proudly displayed with a group from a close neighbor island of Vieques dancing to a West Indian tune. The Batuteras de Guaynabo are a crowd favorite. They can twirl their batons with the best of them. A new group from the University of Puerto Rico performed beautifully with their dancers and singers. Loiza is a small town in the northern part of Puerto Rico that kept true to their African roots and was on full display with their dancers and float.

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Sorority Dancers

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University of PR

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ATA Fraternity

 

     Puerto Ricans loved to dance and love their cars. Some of the best choreographed moves came from the ATA Fraternity and the XTC Sorority. They really got into it. The group with the most swag was Dancers Dreamzzz. They always represent well. Paying their respects to Puerto Ricans on their day were the Highsteppers with their signature dance moves.  The parade of Polaris 2 wheel cars and jacked up jeeps was jaw dropping. My personal favorite was the Hulk Jeep with monster speakers just shook the ground. The decibel level was off the charts and the crowd just couldn’t get enough.

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The Hulk Jeep

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MLB Slugger Edgar Martinez

     This parade showed off some of the best Puerto Rico has to offer in all aspects of life. In sports, three champions of their game received lots of applause were golf legend Chi Chi Rodriguez, baseball slugger Edgar Martinez and current professional boxer Amanda Serrano.  In the arts, Jose Feliciano waves to his adoring fans while La India and Salsa legend Bobby Sepulveda got lots of love. This is one of the best parades of the year so far and typically marks the unofficial start of summer. Yo Soy Boricua Pa Que Tu Lo Sepa. 

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Que Bonita Bandera…What A Beautiful Flag

 

 

 

 

Filipinos Dazzle on Madison Ave. for the Independence Day Parade

4 Jun

 

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   The second leg of the dual parade day was for one of the more colorful parades so far this year. Billed as the largest celebration outside of the Philippines, the Filipino Independence Day parade got under way on Madison Ave. near 38th St. and made its way down to 25th St. where a large stage was set up for an after parade festival. On  June 12th, 1898, Filipinos proclaimed their independence from Spain and has been a key ally of the US ever since. In this version, there were groups both honoring and decrying the current Filipino President Duterte. Beauty queens were abound with elegant gentlemen dressed in the Spanish style guayaberas.

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     One of the best parts of the parade are the native tribal costumes and dance. There is a huge group dance competition each January in the Philippines and the winner is invited to this parade to display the much revered Nino Santo – the Holy child. One group that really stood out was the colorful group from Cebu. Their costumes were amazing.  All the marchers stopped by the reviewing stand on 28th St. where parade VIPs approved of the dance or display.  Another group from Talisay also had colorful costumes and nice dances. This is one of the most colorful and friendliest parades of the city. If you have the chance, it’s well worth the effort to see it.

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Only In Israel Theme Abundant on Celebrate Israel Day

4 Jun

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     The first of the dual parade Sunday started out with a sea of white and blue Israeli flags being waved by the thousands of revelers on the parade route on 5th Ave from 55th to 74th Sts. All the members of temples and yeshivas in the tri state area come out to celebrate Israel and the Jewish people of New York City.  This year the parade celebrates its 55th year and the celebration was loud and proud.  As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade and was soon followed by the blowing of the shofar – a large horn blown to signal the people to come together for a special occasion.

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     One of the nicest things about the parade is the large homemade banners displayed by the many groups depicting the theme of the parade. This year’s theme was Only in Israel. Banners depicted the Israeli entry in to space with a spacecraft getting close to the moon and innovations in agriculture that will help feed millions more across the planet.  Of course a parade isn’t a parade without marching bands and they did not disappoint at all. Fusion Core kicked things off with a nice drumline. They were soon followed by the impressive Connecticut Hurricanes Drum and Bugle Band.  A really nice surprise was the Quaker City String Band from Philadelphia that really got the crowd worked up. I wished I could have stayed for the entire event but the second leg of the dual parade day got started on Madison Ave.  Gotta go. Oy Vey!!!

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Celebrate Israel

 

Taking It To The Streets of NY at the Dance Parade

19 May
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Tribal Belly dancers Having Fun

     As diverse and multi cultural as New York City is, one parade that brings every one together to celebrate the most ancient of art forms is the Dance Parade. This young parade celebrated its 13th year and just like most teens, the parade was wild and full of life and energy. Over 10,000 dancers showed off their moves along the parade route starting on 20th St. and Broadway to 8th St. and then turning towards Tompkins Square Park where a huge festival took place after the parade. Along the way, dancers stopped by the reviewing stand at Astor Place to demonstrate their dance moves.

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Bolivian Caporales 

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Flamenco Dancers

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Classy ladies in synch

     This years parade theme was Movement of the People and kicking things off was a float dedicated to the original ones. Honoring Indigenous people was a float carrying one of this years Grand Marshalls, Louis Mofsie, a retired school teacher and current director of the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. Soon following them were a perennial favorite, Danielle Lima and her Samba Dance Group always get the party started with their dance moves. If you’re not moving it with this group, then you have no pulse. A section dedicated to belly dancing and fluid movements soon followed.

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Danielle Lima and her Samba Dancers

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Tinkus Having Fun

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Mabel my Favorite Octogenarian

     70s music is always fun to dance to and uplifting. The Shining All Stars got into the action with their dance rendition of Right Back Where We Started From. The cultural dancing started getting hot and heavy with the Russians doing their thing. But as usual, the Bolivians bring out hundreds of dancers. They have such great costumes, high energy and lots of happiness doing what they do.  There are three main sections to the Bolivian group. First, the Tinkus danced with high energy. They are inclined with the Indigenous part of their culture. The Morenales is a more slower dance and reveals a part of their mining history of silver. They also have the best boots of any group. Gaining the most attention and applaud are the high energy Caporales. Groups come as far as Virginia to participate and they never disappoint.

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     A group that always represents with class are the Flamenco dancers. Their float was really having a fun time. House music got lots of people moving even though the float lost some power because the energy was so high. One of my personal favorite groups are the rollerbladers. They always bring it and my favorite octogenarian still rolls up on her skates does a hula hoop dance. Mable is a living example of how music and dance are an important part of staying healthy. Got to keep moving. One group that always gets the crowds moving is Fogo Azul,  an all-female drum band. They were alot of fun as always.

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       All the groups made their way towards Tompkins Square Park where stages were set up for more dancing shows. Other sections of the park were set up for dancing instruction. Dance Parade is one of my favorite parades because it unites all people across ethnic and socio-economic lines. It honors Dance in the Dance Capitol of the World right on Broadway. Shake that Groove right now, baby.

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See Ya Next Year

 

Greeks Turn 5th Avenue into a Sea of Blue and White

16 Apr
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Greek Marching Band Gets the Party Started

     The second leg of the dual parade day brought me to 5th Avenue to celebrate the 82nd annual Greek Independence Day Parade. Everywhere you looked on the parade route, from 64th to 79th streets, blue and white Greek flags were being displayed or waved. The parade coincides as close as possible to the actual date of Independence of March 25th. Hundreds of thousands of revelers turned out to celebrate this festive event which is televised locally on MY9 and internationally where millions in Greece can see the beautiful event. The crowd was really anxious to get things started and as usual the mounted police signaled the start of the parade.

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Evzones Marching Up 5th Avenue

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Folkloric Costumes

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Proud Marcher

 

 

     Parade organizers, The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, led the way to the reviewing stand on 68th street where VIPs and dignitaries captured the amazing display of Greek pride and culture. Among the honored guests were His Eminence Archbishop  Demitrios of America, Mayor Bill deBlasio, US Senator Chuch Schumer and US Rep Carolyn Maloney. This year’s Grand Marshall, George M. Marcus, was honored for his contribution to the fabric of this country. The crowd got an special treat when the Mantazros Philharmonic Society from Corfu, Greece played a marching tune. They led the way for everyone’s favorite part of the parade when the Ezvones, the Presidential Guard,  marched in unison. It really is a special part of a Greek tradition in NYC that makes this parade one of the best.

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     The Greeks are a very religious people. All the Orthodox churches from the tri-state area and even Canada march in the parade with members displaying banners that commemorate the Greek Wars for Independence against the Ottoman Empire. Many floats display images of War Heroes or events that were pivotal in gaining their Independence. Several marchers wore traditional wardrobe that made you feel as though you were in the countryside on the hills of Greece.  This parade is truly a celebration of the unity of Greece and America. The best way to cap off the the double parade day was to head over to Uncle Nick’s on 9th Avenue for some delicious Greek cuisine.

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LONG LIVE GREECE!!!!

Persians Celebrate Nowruz on Madison Avenue on Double Parade Day

15 Apr
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Aftab Dance Group Getting the Crowd Worked Up

     The first of two parades started right on time at 12 noon with a colorful display of traditional costume and dance. This is the 10th year the Persian community has been celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on Madison Ave. between 38th and 25th streets. They always have some of the most colorful floats with signs of Spring and rebirth present. Traditional costumes and traditional dancing was the theme of the day. Kicking things off was a festive group with traditional characters Hajji Firuz and Amu Nowruz getting the crowd worked up for a day of fun, music, dancing, food and national pride.

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     A perennial favorite of the parade is the Bahar Dance Ensemble with their traditional  costume and dance that never disappoints. They really have fun showing off their moves at the parade. Soon after them were parade favorites, the Aftab Dance Group. This young group always has new choreographed dances that pleases the crowd.  Persians are from an ancient people in what today would be Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. A group displayed banners displaying their Zoroastrian heritage and their motto..Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds. A great way to live. Closing out the parade is a group chanting the name of Iran carrying a huge traditional Iranian flag while they made their way to Madison Square Park. The festivities kept going with some delicious Persian food and more music and dance in the park. Luckily, the parade ended in time for me to make a bee line to 5th Ave and 63rd St where the Greek Independence Day parade was getting ready to kick off. There was time thousands of years ago where these two cultures would have marched to battle…this time they march with cultural pride and love.

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Colorful Tartans on Display as the Scottish Take Over 6th Avenue

7 Apr
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Leading the Way

     The culmination of a week long festival known as Tartan Week occurred with a proud display of Scottish culture and colorful tartans. This young parade of just 21 years is growing more and more in popularity with more people visiting from Scotland for the event. It also helped that the warm early April weather invited tens of thousands to line up the parade route on 6th Avenue from 44th to 56th streets. Flags were draped over the railing and revelers waved flags in anticipation of a fun day with plenty of pipe and drum bands marching up the parade route. As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade and the fanfare started right away with this years Grand Marshall, Sir Billy Connolly, waving to his fans.

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Sir Billy Connolly and wife Pamela Stephenson

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Mt. Kisco Scottish Pipes and Drum Rock the Parade

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Honorary Young Fireman, Ross, enjoying the moment

 

     Leading the large array of pipe and drum bands were the perennial favorites Mt. Kisco Scottish Pipe and Drum Marching Band. They always do a great job in getting the crowd worked up. Various influential Scottish organizations made their way up the route including the Scottish-American Foundation and Carnegie Hall.  The FDNY Pipe and Drum Band appointed Ross, a young visitor from Scotland, as an honorary marcher with the group. Young Ross wants to be a fireman when he grows up. Right behind them were another favorite with an assortment of colorful tartans. The Pipes and Drum of Tir na nOg got a loud cheer from the crowd and a salute from the emcee at the reviewing stand on 52nd St.  A group that has marched from the very first parade are the Shamrock and Thistle Pipe and Drum Band from New Jersey.

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Shamrock and Thistle Pipe and Drum Band

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Shelties Stealing Hearts

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One Woman Wrecking Crew

 

     One of the most welcomed groups are always the Westies. Everybody loves it when the dogs bring their owners for a walk up the parade route. Of course some of them wear their best threads for the occasion. Soon after them some Scottish dancers show off  their moves. Of course, the parade always lets its mascot loose. Good old Nessie greeted the crowd. A newer group surprised the revelers when NH Scot Pipes and Drum played with heart and precision. Everyone was impressed with a large group in from Scotland. An award winning North Lanarkshire Schools Pipe Bands showed the crowd why they are number one. A local band from Kearny, NJ always represents what the parade is all about. The Scots American Club Pipe and Drum Band are always impressive. After the parade closes, many marchers head over to 55th Street for an impromptu jam session where they play until they get kicked out.  Rebels to the end. Gotta love it.

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See Ya Next Year

 

 

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