Tag Archives: New York City

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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Lone Wolf Doesn’t Scare NYers on Halloween

1 Nov
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You Think You Scare Us??

     Just about 5 hours before the start of the 44th annual Halloween parade in the Village in NYC, an evil act of senseless murder of 8 innocent people happened in the first terrorist attack since 9/11 in downtown Manhattan. This cowardly act only brings New Yorkers together to be stronger and more resilient than before. Of course any loss of life due to this despicable act is one life too many and let me stop by extending my sympathy for the families that have been directly impacted by the idiot that rented a truck to cause harm. If he thought he was going to cause fear in the hearts with terror, he was sadly mistaken as over a million people lined the parade route on 6th Ave. to make history once again. The Village Halloween parade is the largest of its kind in the world. It’s the one of the largest parades at night and is broadcast locally. All you need is a costume and you can get on the parade route and be part of the biggest Halloween party of its kind.

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NY Gov Cuomo, Jeanne Fleming, Mayor DiBlasio In Unity

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Cabinet of Curiosity

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Day of the Dead Costumer

 

     The scent of burning sage and tossing of the magic dust with blessings from angels dressed in white lets the eager crowd know the parade is about to get started. But there was a show of strength and unity this year. In direct response to the truck incident earlier, both NY State Governor Cuomo and Mayor DiBlasio joined Parade Director Jeanne Fleming just in front of the hundreds of puppets the parade is famous for. Now that was a true NY moment. Nothing scares us. It just makes us stronger. New Yorkers go about their business as usual with even more attitude. Costumers were set on making this a Halloween parade to remember and that it was.

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Animal Collection

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Marni Putting On a Scare

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Just Malificent

 

     Every year a different theme is picked by the parade committee and this years was the old Renaissance Cabinet of Curiosity with drawings of animal heads torso and tails made up in different combinations at the start of the parade.  It was truly a sight to behold and set the tone for what would be a great display of New York creativity. The parade shows off various floats and performing bands in costume with throngs of costumers showing off their great ideas for the event. There were tons of Day of the Dead make up artists and more than my share of creepy clowns. Getting things warmed up for the crowd was the Samba NY group with their samba dancing Wonder Women. They were great. A perennial favorite with a bigger and bigger dance group is Thriller NYC with a tribute to the great Michael Jackson. They always get lots of love from the crowd. Not too far behind them were the all female Brazilian drum band FogoAzul NYC with a fun drum beat with a dancing lioness getting the crowd all worked up. This parade draws all cultures and people looking to have a fun time. The Mexican chinelos had a large group dancing their special homage to Day of the Dead. They were followed by thousands of parade revelers having a great time and doing what New Yorkers do ….staring adversity straight in the face without a flinch. We don’t back down…EVER!!!!   Scare ya Later.

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I know what scares YOU!!!

 

Hispanics Beaming With Cultural Display on 5th Ave.

11 Oct
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Viva La Hispanidad

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

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Homage to Picasso

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El Salvador Bringing It

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Panamanian Polleras

 

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

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Spaniards Taking the Lead

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Dominican Diablos Getting Fired Up

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Bolivian Angels Flying Up the Parade Route

 

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

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Jaguar Scaring the Crowd

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Panamanian Float

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Paraguay Bottle Dancers

 

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

 

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Que Alegria..What Happiness

Stepping It Up In Harlem for the African American Parade

19 Sep
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Hillside Blue Thunder Kicking Things Off

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

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Spreading the Word

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Getting the Drummers In Line

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Best Drum line of the Parade

 

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

Tropical Heat Turns Up on 5th Ave. For the National Puerto Rican Day Parade

12 Jun
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Vejigantes starts up the parade

     On one of the hottest days of the year, it was more than the temperature that was getting heated on the parade route on 5th Ave. for the 60th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Like many Spanish speaking folks would say, Aqui Hay Candela…(there’s fire going on here and not the kind FDNY can put out). This years version of the parade started off with controversy as Oscar Lopez Rivera, a former member of the militant FALN and pardoned by Pres. Obama at the end of his last term, marched in the parade. His appearance caused many big longtime sponsors like Goya Foods, Univision, AT&T, Coca-Cola, JetBlue and others to pull-out. Heavy weight politicians like NY Governor Andrew Cuomo , the NYPD and FDNY also declined to attend. Initially, parade organizers wished to honor Oscar Lopez Rivera with the “National Freedom Hero” award, but he later declined the award and preferred to march and bring awareness to the multitude of issues hurting the island. Ironically, the parade was held on the same day a referendum vote was held on the island. Even the voting process had some controversy to it. Bottom line was the vote for statehood won by overwhelming majority vote and is now waiting for the US Congress to act. Good luck with that. Congress failed to act on an earlier referendum with a higher voter turnout in 2012.  Many of the issues revolve around the bankruptcy filing earlier this year and its effects on the island population like closing of schools and hospitals. A decade long middle-class migration to the US, nefarious financial dealings, and a decline in tourism have all contributed to the precarious economic situation the island finds itself in. Marching with Oscar was a large contingency wearing the black and white version of the Puerto Rican flag that is symbolic of the Resistance movement.

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Oscar Lopez Rivera – the face of the Resistance

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A call for Unity

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Jibaros Getting In on the Action

     The parade usually draws about 2 million spectators but between the heat and the controversy, there was about half that size crowd. This parade is known to be the loudest and proudest of all the parades. There were still plenty of people screaming at the top of their lungs for love of the island. Kicking things off was the 1199 Union float with a singer having lots of fun with the crowd. Grand Marshall, salsa legend Gilberto Santa Rosa, made his way up the parade route followed closely by the Madrina, actress and singer Iris Chacon. One of the better floats came from the NYS Nurses Association with a great rumba band and some hot dancers. A newbie to the parade came all the way from Lorain, Ohio with a nice tribute to Tito Puente. They were pretty good. Sometimes a group gives a nice surprise with their performance and Los Hacheros float had some traditional sounds that made you feel like you were on a beach somewhere on the island. A returning group that keeps making a nice impression were the baton twirling Batuteras de Junco. Keeping the heat up were the XDance group. They have swag and not afraid to show it.

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Gilberto Santa Rosa

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Plena Dancers

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XDance Getting Ready to Show Off Their Moves

     Even though the parade ended earlier than other years and the turnout was not as much as in previous years, it was still a fun parade. There were lots of flags, dancing, happy faces and plenty of  to talk about after the parade was over. No matter what your opinion is of Oscar marching in the parade, there’s a crisis going on in la Isla del Encanto, the enchanted island. Even in the face of a looming storm, Puerto Ricans find a way to have fun and love all that is good from the island.

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Yo Soy Boricua, ‘pa que tu lo sepa!!

Putting on the Nines on 5th for Easter

9 Apr

This years version of the NYC Easter promenade has drawn a clearly visible international flavor as tourists from all over the world gathered on 5th Ave. to behold the grand spectacle of fine fashion, creative bonnets and local entertainment. A bright sunny day and warmer weather helped bring out a decent size crowd between 47th and 57th Sts. with the biggest crowd in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Several hundred thousand arrived to view the latest fashions and attire from as far back as the Gilded Age where the parade was born in the 1870s. The promenade has evolved since then as one from religious meaning to a more display of fashion and style to one of creativity that only New Yorkers can flaunt. It’s a casual “parade” where dressed up folks walk up and down 5th Ave to display and pose for the crowd. Everywhere one looked a new bonnet was being displayed by young and old alike.  Some families have made the event a tradition and their favorite part of Easter. Judging by some of the gaudy bonnets, some may have taken months to complete. Although the promenade is a far cry from its original intent, it’s still a good clean fun way to spend an Easter afternoon in the greatest city on the planet.

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