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.

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Traditional Costume on Display

 

      One of the most anticipated parts of the parade is the arrival of the Greek Presidential Guard, or Evzones, with their traditional attire and synchronized march. They always get the largest applaud from the revelers. The Evzones stopped by the reviewing stand where both the US and the Greek National anthems were sung with great pride. They were soon followed by the representatives from the Hellenic College of Thessaloniki with their flags raised high. A perennial favorite is the Greek American Folklore Society group with their traditional costumes. They always get a lot of applause from the crowd. Joining in the celebration are groups in solidarity with Greeks. The Cyprians always come out to celebrate and remind everyone of the Turks occupation of their land. The Cretians also come out to display their heritage and contribution. Just about all the Greek Orthodox churches in the Tri-state area come out including some from afar as Buffalo, NY and Canada. It’s always great to see the traditional costumes worn with pride and to witness tradition being passed down from one generation to the next.

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See You Next Year

 

 

 

Persians Celebrate Nowruz in Colorful Style on Madison Ave.

16 Apr
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Welcome Nowruz

     In the second leg of the weekend parades, the winds changed from an almost summer feel the day before to an almost winter feel. But that did not stop thousands of revelers to come out and cheer on the ancient festival of Nowruz at he 14th annual Persian Day Parade. The festival has passed down the term “spring cleaning” to the mainstream. It’s a celebration of the revival of nature and things coming back to life after a season of winter. Since the festival is over 3000 years, the Persian region and not one particular country come out to celebrate the event. Originally attributed to the Zoroastrian religion that dates back before Islam or Christianity, Nowruz has some familiar characters of tradition. Amu Nowruz is a friendly character that gives out money to children and has a similar appearance to Santa Claus while Haji Firuz bangs the tambourine to get the festival and dancing started. Pre-parade festivities were getting wrapped up as the crowd was getting anxious to see some of their favorite marchers. As usual, the mounted police let everyone on Madison Ave. and 38th St. know the parade was about to get started.  The NYPD Marching Band followed right behind to get the parade started.

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Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds

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Bahar Dance Ensemble

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Let The Party Begin

 

     This parade is known for its colorful floats and fine traditional dancers. One of the first floats was the Isfahan float with dancers moving to a traditional piano movement. Not an easy thing o do but they pulled it off quite nicely. A returning group that was well received was the Bahar Dance Ensemble. They always put on a great show. The Baba Tahar  float had some elegant dancers with alot of energy to please the crowd. In their second year, the Persian Parade DC Chapter was having fun especially when the Amu Nowruz character started dancing with them. The colorful floats also pay tribute to iconic figures like Cyrus, Ferdowsi, and Rumi.  This is always a fun parade that draws more people every year. The parade route leads everyone to Madison Square Park where the festivities continue. And if you get hungry there are kiosks with food vendors set up nearby. The Taste of Persia restaurant sets up shop there with their tasty vegetarian soup Ash Reshteh…a must have especially on a chilly afternoon.

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Holi Festival Of Colors Takes Over Richmond Hills

16 Apr
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Praying For Success 

     In the first leg of a parade weekend, the warmer weather brought out thousands of revelers to Liberty Ave. in Richmond Hills, Queens to celebrate the ancient festival of Holi. Previous celebrations had coincided more with the actual dates in mid-March but colder weather in previous years left the parade with few attendees. It was a good decision by parade organizers to move it forward to mid-April where the chances of better weather would allow for a better experience. Richmond Hills, Queens is home to the largest population of Caribbean-Hindi descent.  Holi has been celebrated in India and Nepal for over a thousand years and is a National holiday. It is a festival of the arrival of spring. It’s a time to get rid of the winter blahs and anticipate the blast of colors coming soon. It’s also a celebration of good vs. evil as a story of Vishnu is remembered.

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Getting the Parade Started

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Feel The Rainbow

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Dancer Getting the Crowd Worked Up

     As usual, there is a ceremonial dance prior to the start of the parade, wishing for a successful event. Then the NYPD Marching Band kicked things off letting parade revelers know things were about to get started. They were soon followed by a group of drummers to get the crowd worked up in front of Singh’s restaurant for a day of celebration. A line of colorful floats from the various mandirs of the area keeps the flow of the parade moving down the parade route to Smokey Park where the festival continued. A stage was set up for performers and the park was open for friends and family to spread the color all around.  It’s a fun parade that has been getting more attention from outside the community. The parade is a good addition to your bucket list as long as you don’t mind turning into a rainbow of colors by perfect strangers. Happy Holi.

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Scots Bring Out Their Best Threads For the Tartan Parade

9 Apr
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Ready To March

     The grand finale of a week long festival known as TartanWeek is always the annual parade up 6th Ave. where the Scottish put on a fine display of dress and pipe and drum bands. Growing in popularity over its 20 years, the Tartan Parade always draws thousands of fellow Scottish pats to come out and cheer on their favorite groups. Although it was probably warmer in Glasgow than in NYC, the eager crowd was lined up around the start of the parade on 44th St and cheered the marchers to the end on 54th St. where a tour bus with parade VIPs and this years Grand Marshall KT Tunstall greeted all the marchers. As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade with honorary lead pipe and drums band from West Point at the front getting the crowd worked up for a fun day of music, marchers, and passing of tradition.

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Grand Marshall KT Kunstall

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Getting the Parade Started

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Shamrock & Thistle Pipes and Drum Band

 

     There were plenty of pipes and drum bands to keep the crowd entertained. The NY Caledonian Club brought their A game but not to be outdone were perennial favorites the NY Metro Pipes and Drum Band and the always impressive Shamrock and Thistle Pipes and Drum Band. Another favorite were the Highland Dancers and always a heart stealer are the Welsh Terriers and a newcomer to the event from Long Island were the Shetland Sheepdog Rescue Group showing off their latest arrivals. This years parade had a more organic feel to it as more groups were displaying banners promoting fair trade and getting back to a simpler way of living. It was no coincidence that a large group from St. Andrews made their presence felt as the big Masters golf tournament was being played in Augusta, Georgia. Golf was first played in St. Andrew’s golf course sometime in the 1400s.

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Proud Canadian Having Fun at the Parade

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Welsh Terriers Steal the Show

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Highland Dancers

     A welcome presence is always the foreign connection to the Scottish culture. This year Canada had a large group that played music with pride. The Forest Legion Group had a blast and really got the crowd worked up. There’s always a group from Scotland that performs at the parade and this year the honor was bestowed upon Sgoil Lionacleit. They played in honor of one of their fallen victims of the Manchester bombing, Eilidh MacLeod.  Although they played with heavy hearts, the played magnificently with dancers leading the way in a show of strength and tradition. A parade just isn’t a parade without a marching band and this year the Homestead Highlanders from Wisconsin made sure the crowd knew they were there for a good time. One of the best pipe and drum bands is actually a combination of local bands. The bands from Middlesex County, NJ and Kearny Caledonians made their way up the parade route with one the best presentations. Once the parade is wrapped up, many musicians gather on 54th St. for an impromptu jam session until the police chase them away. It’s always a fun parade and keeps growing each year.

 

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See Ya Next Year…

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