Tag Archives: Parades

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Howling Good Time In Flushing For the Lunar New Year

18 Feb
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Double Dragon Fortuna

     Hundreds of marchers were getting ready near Queens Crossing on Main St. in Flushing,  for the start of the annual Chinese Lunar New Year parade. This is one of the most important festivals in the Asian community and usually lasts about 2 weeks. 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog according to Chinese astrology. I especially like this neighborhood parade because of the great food digs especially along Prince St.  Flushing is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country and home  to over 200 places of worship within a 2.5 square mile radius and remains a model of plurality and an example of how different religions can coexist in harmony.  Commercial and residential development is on the rise in Flushing with the near completion of Tangramnyc and mounting pressure on the City to revamp the area adjacent to Citifield, home of the NY Mets. With all the new progress on the horizon, the parade helps keep tradition going with thousands of people lined up along the parade route to rub the nose of one of the dancing lions or  elegant dragons for good luck and prosperity.

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Dancing Lions

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Falun Dafa

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Dragon Greeting the Crowd

 

     As usual with these parades, the mounted police signals the start of the parade. VIPs and dignitaries carried a large banner announcing the event with the NYPD Marching Band getting things started. This year, the Chinese groups led of the parade with the World Journal double dragon Fortuna wagging their tail down the parade route. They got the crowd really worked up. A returning  favorite were the DCH Racing Group Dancing Lions. They really got into it and were tossing lettuce leaves into the crowd, a symbol of good fortune. Several loyal community groups followed with their banners and well wishes for a Happy New Year. The largest of these groups is Falun Dafa, with their huge marching band. This year they added a few dancing lions and more flags. Their presence keeps growing with their positive messages and beliefs. Closing out the parade were the large Korean marchers with their traditional dress, traditional drummers and military war veterans barking orders to their group to stay in line. They were getting lots of love from the crowd especially since the Winter Olympics are being held in Pyeongchang.  The parade always closes out with a pyrotech display of thousands of firecrackers being lit. What an explosive way to kick off the parade season in NYC.

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Xinnian kuaile

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!!

Rain Doesn’t Damper Spirits at the Hispanic Day Parade

10 Oct
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Military Veterans proudly display Latino Flags

A morning of showers kept many revelers home and had the marchers on edge about marching in wet raw weather but after a minor delay, the 52nd annual Hispanic Day parade got started up the parade route on 5th Ave. from 45th to 65th Sts. Normally this parade draws over a million revelers with marchers coming from many parts of the US and Latin American countries. This is a display of culture and contribution of Latinos from over 19 countries have made to this great nation. Macys and the Daily News award the group with best representation with an prize for their costumes and performance. Although the crowds were not as large as in previous years, the marchers were having a fun time dancing their native and traditional dances. As usual the lead country is Spain as she is considered to be the Mother country of Latinos after the colonial conquest all throughout the Western hemisphere. There was an equal amount of representation of native Indians and of the African influence in Hispanic culture. Typically, this parade starts of alphabetically with Argentina and Bolivia kicking things off.

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Parade Beauty Queens

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Carnaval Costumer from Barranquilla Colombia

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Panamanian Dancers

Although there was no tango dancing this year, the Argentinians did display their gaucho costumes while the Bolivians did have some high energy dancing with the Indian influenced tinkus getting things started. A group of cowboys from Chile showed of their costumes and dance moves.   The Colombians showed off their native dances mostly cumbia.  There was a Carnaval group from Colombia dressed up in comical costumes that ended up winning the big award for the event. Costa Rica and Dominican Republic had some traditional representations. Ecuador had some nice costumes and beauty queens. Two marching bands were in from El Salvador that were pretty good. One was a sharply dressed group called Banda El Carbonero from NY and the other was a group up from Maryland that also displayed a group of military veterans.  Honduras had some colorful costumes and sent a soccer hero. Mexico usually some traditional dancers and the chinelos group but the rain kept them away this year. Nicaragua had some cute costumes as well but had seen better in years before.

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Banda El Carbanero Having Fun

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Uruguayan Candombe Drummers

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Bolivian Tinkus in Full Force

Every year, the group from Panama sends many bands from their native land. It must be a great treat for many of the band members visiting for the first time. The first group was from the Soyuz School. They were very good. The next one was even better from the Banda Cristiana de Panama…Loved their outfits. There was a group from Paraguay showing off their traditional dances. Usually the dancers balance 3 bottles on their head but the wind gusts limited the bottle count to only one this year. There were a few Peruvian dancing groups but the best one had to be the traditional dancers. Uruaguay always sends their condombe conga drummers with their sexy dancers. Venezuela has been getting better in sending more groups and floats to represent their culture. Closing out the parade was more bands from Panama including the Colegio Felix Oliveras Contreras soon followed by the Banda San Miguel Arcangel with traditional dancers. Saving the best for last was the Banda Internacional Apacolipsis with their devilish red costumes..they were scorching hot. Even though the weather was not great for a  parade day, the spirits were flying high and Latinos from every nation would be very proud.

German Bands and Beer Make For Great Fun at the Steuben

19 Sep
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Traditional Costumes of Germany

Mid-September is when people of German descent in the Tri-State area gather together and celebrate the birthday of a Revolutionary War hero, Baron von Steuben. In it’s 59th year, the Steuben Parade is also a time to display unity and friendship with native Germans and their German-American counterparts. This year’s Grand Marshall, ice skating champion, Katarina Witt made her way up the parade route on 5th Ave. to the reviewing stand on 78th St.  She was announced by an annual favorite, the German Air Force Band. One of the best displays of unity was the Steuben Association of the NYFD hosting their German Firemen counterparts. They marched right behind each other as brother and sisters in arms. Both dedicated to protecting and serving others in harms way. I did get a kick out of the police car used by Germans …made a Smart car look like a Suburban. The first of many beer floats made its way up the parade route as there was a huge tent in Central Park that had a big Oktoberfest celebration that coincided with the big one going on in Munich the same day. Many dancers and marchers dressed in traditional German attire were happy to stop by for a quick photo op.

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Carnaval Costumers

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The Little Car That Could….

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German and American Unity

One of the best things about the Steuben is we get treated to hear German bands play their marching songs or even a few American favorites. Stadtkapelle Offenburg played a Jersey Boys favorite tune.  They were soon followed by a newer group that played well. Zierte Jonge Niederzier got the crowd excited for what would be the scene stealer with the marching band clad in all white from Fanfarenzug Potsdam. They really did a fantastic job and got the crowd worked up. Keep in mind the Steuben is by far one of the most polite parades in NY. Yes there will be a hoot and a holler once in a while but for the most part people just applaud and wave…yawn. The beer floats definitely pick things up whenever there is a lull in the flow. There were easily a dozen beer floats and every one of those was having a good time. One of the best floats was in honor of the German contribution to film making. Annual crowd favorites continue to be the Volkswagon cars from Long Island, the German dobermans, and the Carnaval costumers. Americans from German descent came from New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to share in the friendship and unity and of course…beer.

Dancing Dragons Racing Rabbits

9 Feb

    The unforgiving winter weather finally gave way to a day of bright sunshine and azure blue skies with a hint of spring in the air. Rachel and I arrived at the corner of Mott and Hester Streets in Lower Manhattan for the start of the Chinese Lunar Parade.  Year of the Rabbit 4709.  The bustling crowd was gearing up for what promised to be a grand parade and it certainly was. Prior to the parade start, we got to meet some of the organizers of  Better Chinatown Society.  Most helpful were Theresa Tin, Gilbert Hoe and Raymond Chin as they explained this parade has been part of their lives for the last 12 years. The parade keeps growing each year and the main reasons they work tirelessly is to pass on the traditions of New Years and it’s importance to the younger generation. The parade is also key to promoting business and economic development within the community and invite other parts of the city to join in the celebration. There were over 4,000 participants in the parade and estimates of 400,000 people lined up along the parade route.

The start of the parade was beginning to take shape in spectacular and patriotic fashion. Aboard the main float, singers resembling the Andrew Sisters from World War 2 era began singing patriotic songs and Chinese war veterans joined in helping to get the crowd ready. While the USO women were singing away, celebrities and politicians began gathering for their chance to address the crowd. In the mix was main organizer Steven Tin directing his assistants to various tasks as the pace began to get hectic. Clearly he was a field general on a mission to accomplish a large undertaking safely and with much fanfare.  While the VIPs were placing the red sashes over their shoulders, Rachel asked a young woman distributing Chinese and American flags if she can have two. After much negotiation,she finally gave them to Rachel and I placed a Chinese flag in my coat front pocket.  Now  it was time for the much awaited Lion Dance. Red-ribboned dignitaries held fishing poles with lettuce at the end waiting for the Lion to chew some leaves and throw some to the crowd. This is a symbol of good luck and prosperity.  When the cabbage was caught, confetti and streamers came flying from long tubes as part of a boisterous celebration.  The parade officially began with  US Senator Chuck Schumer, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and the crowd favorite NYC Comptroller John C. Liu marching down Mott St. to the delight of the crowd. Then the fun really started.           

The first float carried the Fortune Guard to bring good luck to everyone. The crowd greeted him with much enthusiasm. He was followed by a pair of 60 ft long dancing dragons with traditional drums, cymbals and gongs. As the beat got faster the dragons dance frenzied and the crowd cheered them on.  The louder the crowd became the faster the beat and the faster the dragons danced. It was like one big circle that kept growing and growing.  Following the dragons were a parade of lion dancers with some difficult acrobatic moves. A crowd pleaser that had crowd reaching out to touch for good luck.  Even a young lion dancer quickly became a fan favorite. After the lion dancers came the Chinese Woman’s Organization as they marched in beat to their own drum as though they had been doing so for years. None of the ladies were under 60 so I guess they had plenty of practice. Then one of the larger participants arrived. The families with adopted Chinese children represented a large contingency with cutouts depicting the many provinces of China. An excellent way to show the children that many of the customs from their native home are alive and well in Chinatown, NY, USA. A parade just isn’t a parade without a real marching band and the Francis Lewis Patriots Marching Band from Queens came out swinging loud and proud. Other parade participants included the Gay and Lesbian Chinese Coalition, the Fukien float with displays of traditional costumes of deities, and the Boy and Girl Scouts. The last float was from one of the organizers, Better Chinatown. Three large rabbits waved their Chinese and American flags at the crowd while a beauty queen wowed the crowd.

     Rachel and I decided to head over to Roosevelt Park where the parade ended and there would be post-parade festivities. Vendors were all around giving away gifts and participants met and gathered and talked about the great time they had. We met up again with a group from DeWitt Clintion High School from the Bronx this time while they were in cute animal costumes. There was a group gathering around a makeshift stage so we made for the front and were pleased to find out a troupe from the show Ka of Cirque Du Soleil was going to perform for a few minutes in honor of the event. They were on loan from Las Vegas and dazzled the crowd with their acrobatic choreography and battle scenes.  The crowd wanted more but it was just a sampling and quickly followed by a popular lounge singer.

 I was getting a strong desire to sit at my favorite restaurant in Chinatown, Wo Hop (17 Mott St, downstairs), for some steamed dumplings and something spicy like Goon Bo Gai Ding (chicken). As we began making our way out of the maze of people at Roosevelt Park, we noticed children running around in the playground even though it was still filled with snow.  Youth must play. As we walked under a pathway filled with all kinds of lanterns, an older Chinese man pointed at the Chinese flag I still had in my coat front pocket and said “Ha. You are Chinese.” And I answered him “Yes. For one special day I am.”  Gung Hay Fat Choy!

                                

 

For more pictures click on this blog’s photo links and CNN ireport

link :http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-552616

Next stop: The second leg of our bunny hop to the Flushing Queens Chinese Lunar New Year Parade on Sat. Feb. 12th 11am to 1pm.

 

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