Harlem Hosts a Hip Hop Happy Parade

18 Sep

Uniondale Marchers Having Fun

     The second leg of the big weekend parades went down up in Harlem this past Sunday. In a sharp contrast to the polite Steuben parade of Saturday, the 49th annual African American Day parade was boisterous with both marchers and revelers screaming with joy, love and happiness. Billed as the largest parade of its kind in the country, the African American parade displays lots of pride and enthusiasm for all the contributions made to the nation and to the great city of New York. Crowds were filling up along the parade route on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. from 111th St. up to 135th St. The warm weather brought out close to 1 million people waiting to cheer on the marchers that came in from all parts of the country.


A Call to Start Something New


Positive Messages to Take Home


Calling all Marchers


     In the shadows of the world famous Apollo Theater on 125th St. and in front of the Adam Clayton Powell statue, a reviewing stand is set up for announcers to introduce the many hundreds of groups participating in the grand event. Local hip hop and R&B radio stations also simulcast the event to all their local and worldwide listeners. As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade. Parade dignitaries and VIPs made their way to the reviewing stand in what would be an amazing day of celebration. This parade has always been a platform to educate and raise awareness of issues affecting the community. Marchers were eager to engage with people about issues like ending the school to prison stream and a call to end police violence and killing of unarmed minority citizens. There were many groups calling of the community to get out and exercise no matter what your age. It really is a great day for community for all those present.


Powerful Messages


Mayor Dinkins and Charles Rangel


Drummers Giving Their All


     Many floats passed by blaring old school and the latest hip hop hits. It was one big party. A more traditional marching unit came up from Baltimore in the Christian Warriors. They always put on a good show and the drummers were on fire. Of course a parade isn’t a parade without a marching band and Uniondale HS from Long Island, NY did a great job. Dancing groups came to show off their best moves. The Marching Cobras got things started with their stylish moves. One of the best dance groups were the Sugar Babies. They had female dancers break out moves that had them standing on their head. Amazing.


Cobras Showing Some Swag


Deltas Steal the Show


Sugar Babes…Indeed


     The fraternity and sorority houses represented very well and had the most fun of all the groups. The last part of the parade always features the steppers from Baltimore showing off their swag. Perennial favorite Mass Destruction got things started with their high energy dancing. A new crew showed off some nice moves in the Epic Premier Marching Unit. They were soon followed by a really fun group. The Dynasty Marching Unit showed off some really good moves and gave the crowd a treat. In this case, the best was saved for last when the Baltimore All-Stars tore it up and sent the crowd home happy.  This really is a great parade to attend and if you haven’t seen it…add it to your bucket list. It’s a must see.



See Ya Next Year


Germans All Smiles at the Steuben on 5th Avenue

17 Sep



Happy Times at the Steuben

     The first leg of the big dual parade weekend started with one of the most polite parades of the year. German Americans from the tri state area came out in droves to cheer on their compatriots visiting from all parts of Germany for a grand celebration of German culture and contribution to the fabric of NYC. The 61st annual Steuben parade honors the Revolutionary War General Baron von Steuben but it has transformed into a show of unity of German Americans and folks from the Motherland. The large crowd along the 5th Ave. parade route was getting anxious to see the lead marching band perform. This parade rolls out the red carpet literally at the reviewing stand by 78th St. where parade dignitaries and VIPs take in some of the many talented marchers and bands.



     As usual, the mounted police signal the start of the parade with the lead band stopping by the reviewing stand to play both countries national anthems. Then the fun begins with the lead band playing a popular marching band tune. As a show of unity, both German and NY firefighters get together for a march. One of the best things about the Steuben are marching bands come in from Germany and play some fine marching tunes. One of the better ones with great costumes from another era was the group from Dinkelsbuhl. They were soon followed by a really fun band called Musikverein Schienen. There were some great costumes celebrating the German version of Karneval.   Various regions near Germany come out in celebration as well. Austrians, Bavarians and even a really cool Swiss Band rocked out. They were fun.



     Perennial favorites Long Island Volkswagon Club drove their Beetles up the parade route. The doberman dogs brought their owners with them so they can show off their attitude. Beer floats always make the most noise and their patrons can’t wait to get to the Oktoberfest celebration in Central Park after the parade.  It really is a fun parade, polite, but lots of fun.


Beer and Brats anyone?!!

West Indians Dazzle on a Sizzling Labor Day in Brooklyn

4 Sep

Fierce Dragon Getting Ready to Fire Things Up


     The familiar smoky aroma of cooked meats coming from the hundreds of food kiosks lined up the parade route on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn USA made for an enticing start of what would be a sizzling parade. The tropical like weather certainly made you feel like you were in one of the any of the Caribbean island nations celebrating their culture and raising their flags. While there were plenty of pina coladas , fresh juices, and bottled water to soothe your thirst, I was in search of some coconut water right out of the coconut. Finally found a vendor who cut up the fruit with his machete and I was delightfully happy to enjoy one of the best kinds of water Mother Nature has given us. Then I learned how to use a piece of the hulk to eat the meat of the coconut. I was definitely going Islander today. Since the parade is held on Labor Day, I had the chance to speak with local grass-root organizers about issues that affect every day workers and immigration rights and an end to US colonialism especially with regards to Puerto Rico.


NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Getting Votes


Getting Fierce for the Parade


Amazing Float

     Parade organizers made their way up the parade route just past Washington St. where reviewing stands were set up for judges to rate the various groups on originality and costumes. There were plenty of costumes and groups to judge as this is one of the largest parades in the City. Hundreds of thousands march and dance in the parade and well over 1 million people come out to enjoy the sights and sounds of all things Caribbean. Kicking things off were the NYPD Steel Drum and Brass Band. They got the early crowd into the festivities with some nice tunes. As usual, local politicians greeting the crowd. This being an election year for NYS Governor, both Democratic candidates, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and contender Cynthia Nixon were present trying to win votes. After all the politicians and VIPs made their way up the parade route, then the fun started. The first of many groups with stylish costumes was Blue Wave with designer Donna Dove and her group getting the crowd worked up. They did a great job.


Costume Designer Donna Dove and her Blue Wave Creation


Warrior Princess


Masqueraders Having Fun

     The part that most people come out to see are the colorful costumes the masqueraders wear as they follow the big tractor trailers with huge speakers playing all the hits. You can jump over the railing on Eastern Parkway starting at Utica Ave. and go all the way to Washington St. and join in and dance with your favorite group…hop on a train and go back to Utica Ave. and do it all over again. Only in NY. One group that has great costumes and wows the crowd is Stronjeh  Intl. They had an amazing display. One of the best things to see is when groups following the tractor trailers are asked to raise their flags to represent their country. The largest group of the parade and celebrating their 10th year was the ever popular Ramajay Mas. They always set the bar to what masqueraders and good music to entertain the crowd. Their grand finale at the judges stand was amazing. To date many have tried to copy but no group has yet to surpass their energy and dominance of parade floats. They had plenty of competition though. Right behind them were the Dingolay group with their black devil costumes. That group was sizzling the streets even more than the hot temperature. Another group that was having lots of fun was the Kaios float. They were pretty good.


Impressive Float


Dazzling Beauties


Having Fun at the Parade

This is truly one of the best parades in the City. Delicious food, soothing drinks, great music, stunning costumes and floats…it’s Carnival in the streets of New York.

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Happy Carnival



Royalty Makes Its Way to the Indian Day Parade on Madison Avenue

20 Aug

Representation of Shivaji Maharaj

     The excitement was building up around 38th St. and Madison Ave. this past Sunday in anticipation for the start of the 38th annual Indian Independence Day parade. Although the day was overcast, the marchers and dancers were sizzling hot getting ready to show off with great pride their community and culture. Billed as the largest Indian independence parade outside of India, this years theme of “the world is one family” was evident in many of the groups present in showing unity with the US. Undoubtedly the tech boom in the US has drawn hundreds of thousands of Indians from their homeland to make the NYC their new home.  Many of those transplants made their way along the parade route on Madison Ave. from 39th to 25th streets to cheer on their compatriots.


Anupam Kher Gets the Parade Started


Master Blaster Sir Vivian Richards Greets the Crowd


Jallosh Gets the Crowd Worked Up

     As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade. It is with great fanfare that the parade organizers, the Federation of India Association, invite celebrities from India as Grand Marshalls. This year was no exception with heavy hitters like the legendary film actor  Anupam Kher,  and the Master Blaster of cricket, Sir Vivian Richards gathering the most attention. Parade organizers invite groups from both the tri-state area and from India to participate in an amazing display of color and tradition. After all the VIPs and dignitaries  made their way to the reviewing stand on 27th St., the fun started with perennial favorite Swamibara Pipe Band playing an upbeat tune for the crowd. Air India displayed their famous record breaking all female pilots that circumnavigated the globe last year. The familiar drumbeat and high energy of Jallosh  always gives the crowd something to cheer about. A combination of new and traditional music style was seen in the Hotstar float. They were really good.


Raising Awareness


Celebrating Indian Independence


Traditional dancers

     This years theme of “the world is one family” was displayed by various groups all throughout the parade. India is a deeply spiritual country with many religions and spiritual groups displaying banners helping to raise consciousness. It was great to see Yogi Masters and Buddhist monks share a moment of solidarity. My favorite sign was Peace is the One True Religion. Amen to that. Saving the best for last was a group invited to perform traditional dances from Mumbai. The Chhatrapati Foundation brought a dancing group and a representation of Shivaji Maharaj, founder of Hindavi Swarajya, self-rule, a government of the people. Many of the principles used then helped form the foundation of US democracy. All in all, it was a great parade with lots of colorful costumes and passing on of tradition to the next generation.

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Welcome to India my Friends

Love Wins At the Biggest Pride Parade in NYC

25 Jun


     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.



Love Wins


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.


Taking Pride In Flight


Flag From Orlando


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.


Pumping Out Some Good Tunes


Flaggots Turning It Out


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.



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

17 Jun

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.


Founder Dick Zigun Getting Ready


Queen Mermaid Amanda Palmer and King Neptune Neil Gaiman


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.


Marni With A Message


Two Classy Mermaids Always Dress For The Occassion


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.



Puerto Ricans Turn Celebration Into Remembrance

11 Jun

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.


A Call For Accountability


Grand Marshall Esai Morales


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.


What A Beautiful Flag!!


Mr. and Mrs. Jorge Posada


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).


A Rallying Cry for those Lost


Beauty Queen Enjoying the Parade


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


XDance Having Fun


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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