Tag Archives: West Indian Day Parade

Wet and Wild Times at the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn

3 Sep

 

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It’s Carnival Time….

     Torrential rains at the start of the 52nd annual New York Carnival Parade couldn’t damper the moods of thousands of marchers, masqueraders and revelers that came to experience one of New York’s largest parades.  Labor Day in New York is celebrated in grand style with a magnificent display of Caribbean culture in music, dance, food and mass celebration. People come from all parts of the country and the Caribbean islands just to be a part of the spectacular event. Since the real Carnival is held in mid winter, it’s too cold in NYC for any type of outdoor celebration, so the parade founders organized a fashion show and parade similar to the traditional event from the islands to be held on Labor Day.

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Blank Ink Crew Float Getting Fired Up

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Fly Having Some Fun

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Amazing Caribbean Cultural Display 

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Always Brings Her A Game

     As soon as I turned on Eastern Parkway and Washington St. the aromatic foods were drawing me in to see what was cooking. Big trays of curried goat and chicken, oxtails, rice and peas and whole host of other Caribbean food selections were available from kiosk to kiosk. The rain started picking up towards the start of the parade where the NYPD Brass Band got the sparse crowd into the festive mood with a nice upbeat tune. A parade of flags from the island nations and Canada got things started. Then the heavy rains started and everyone ran for cover. About a half hour later, the rain subsided and the first of many floats arrived to the cheer of many in the crowd. The cast from the popular TV series Black Ink Crew got the party started with a hard banging float.

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     Huge tractor trailers with monster speakers pumped out some favorite tunes for masqueraders to dance to along the 2 mile parade route on Eastern Parkway. They make their way passed Washington St, in front of the Brooklyn Museum where a number of judges review the groups presentation. It’s always a fun time to see which group brings the most energy and gets the nod from the judges. The beautiful 4 Seasons group had an impressive presentation. They were soon followed by the fierce group Stronjeh. This large group was well prepared for their presentation. A perennial favorite, Ramajay Mas, announced this would be their final year at the Parade. All the masqueraders from Ramajay gave it their all. It was amazing to see. Several dancers left in tears knowing this was their last dance. Ramajay Mas has always set the bar for excellence in presentation at the West Indian Day Parade. They will be missed.  Radio station WBLS promoted youth in a high energy display of a well choreographed African themed presentation.

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A convoy of tractor trailers kept growing as the rain left and the sun came back out along with the heat the West Indian community brings to any party. The Haitians had one of the largest crowds following their truck. Bajan Paradise got the crowd to raise their flags all up and down the Parkway. It really is one of the best parades in the city.  See ya next year.

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West Indians Dazzle on a Sizzling Labor Day in Brooklyn

4 Sep
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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.

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NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Getting Votes

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Getting Fierce for the Parade

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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.

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Costume Designer Donna Dove and her Blue Wave Creation

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Warrior Princess

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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.

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Impressive Float

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Dazzling Beauties

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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

 

 

Colorful Display of Caribbean Culture at the West Indian Day Parade

5 Sep
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It’s Carnival Time

     For the past 50 years, Labor Day on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn turns into a huge festival and display of Caribbean pride, culture, costumes and contribution to the fabric of NYC. The nice weather allowed close to 2 million revelers to come out and join in the fun. This is one the largest and longest parades of the year so far. As soon as you make your way onto Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, the aroma of cooking up some jerk chicken or curried goat or fried fish with rice and peas guides you to some of the hundreds of kiosks preparing some delicious Caribbean meals. The event had it’s history in the 1930s when the pre-Lenten celebrations were held indoors in venues in Harlem. But due to the nature of its celebration, the event had to be held outdoors and eventually made its way to Eastern Parkway. Event organizers, WIADCA, always but on a grand display.  Things got under way early. By 11 AM,  the first of many floats started things off with the NYPD brass band playing some inspired beats to get the crowd ready for  fun-filled day. The parade always draws its share of politicians. Starting off the political show was NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo with Rev. Al Sharpton at his side. This being a mayoral election year, there were many candidates pounding the pavement and asking for votes. Leading the way was current incumbent, Mayor Bill DeBlasio with his wife Charlene.  They were warmly received. It took well over an hour for the politicians to work the crowd but once they were gone, the fun began.  There weren’t as many activists with messages of awareness as in previous years. One group that did stand out was the Mas in Fashion, raising awareness of the evil of human trafficking.

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Fashion March Against Human Trafficking

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New Wave Mas Working the Crowd

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Carnival Time in the City

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Birds of a Feather….

 

     The first of several music and costumed floats to make their way down the 2 mile parade route was the New Wave Mas float in their whitewash theme. A large group that made their way down from Massachusetts was the Bajan Paradise float and their sexy masqueraders. They really got the crowd worked up with their version of Vitamin Water. All the masqueraders and music trucks with their massive sound systems make their way to the judges panel just past Washington St. and the Brooklyn Museum. One group having lots of fun with the judges was the Antwine International Group. Then a huge display of color broke out with some amazing presentations for the judges to score. One large group with lots of colorful and energetic costumers were the Stronjeh Float. But not to be outdone, Ramajay Mas always has the best masqueraders and themes. This years theme was Opulence and it really showed in the costumes and floats. This is one of the only parades where you can march and dance with your favorite group until the end of the parade route, hop on a subway for a few stops and start it all over again. One of the best things to see is when the MC of the trucks asks everyone to raise their flags while blasting their favorite tunes. For that moment, all people of the Caribbean nations unite in celebration and what a wild one it was.

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Raise Ya Flags!!

Egyptian Royalty Take Over the West Indian Day Parade

8 Sep
Queen of the Parade

Queen of the Parade

The scorching heatwave could not stop over 1 million people from lining up the parade route on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn where the smells of spicy foods made you feel as though you were on the shores of Kingston, Jamaica or Barbados or Trinidad. As hot as it was, the beach would have been a suitable alternative but the asphalt and cement of Brooklyn played host to the 48th annual West Indian Day Parade. A loud celebration of culture, tradition and lots of colorful costumes. As usual the first hour of the long parade is held mostly by local politicians including Gov. Andrew Cuomo ,NYC Mayor DeBlasio,  City Council members and parade dignitaries and VIPs. Soon after the politicians shook hands, community groups and activists displayed messages to help raise awareness of social issues impacting their community. Brooklyn is home to one of the largest West Indian community in the US. A group of activists marched with large banners denouncing the recent immigration laws in the Dominican Republic that discriminate against Haitians. Another group pushed for anti- gentrification of Brooklyn while another group displayed photos of people murdered at the hands of police. A group from Dominica really got the crowd worked up with a lively drum band. The groups representation was less than anticipated because of the damage done by Hurricane Erika. After a local religious group sang their songs of praise to the revelers, all hell broke loose.

Dominica Visits the Parade

Dominica Visits the Parade

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Kingly Costume

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Queen from Massachusetts

The first of 40 tractor trailers with monster speakers got the crowd worked up with lots of soca and dance music. It really felt like Carnival. Many masqueraders dressed in their group theme with some amazing costumes that left very little to the imagination. That beach scene was relived all over again. One group from Massachusetts displayed an all white costumes and the king and queen were quite impressive. A smaller group, The Immortals, had some good fast music going for everyone to dance to. A similar group, 500 Strong, had some of the best dancers.  One large group, Kaois Mas, really had some energetic masqueraders and great costumes. But they were really getting things warmed up for another large group that won prizes for Queen of the Parade. Sesame Carnival with an Egyptian Royal theme really had a leg up on the rest of the competition. Their performance to the judges was quite extraordinary. For some reason the pace of the parade was slower than in previous years and the gaps were plentiful this time around. Aside for a few police matters, the parade was a smashing success.

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Black and White Queen Shines at the West Indian Day Parade

4 Sep
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Queen of the Parade

 The excitement was building up early on Eastern Parkway in anticipation of the 46th annual West Indian Day Parade. Soggy weather didn’t dampen any of the festivities of the Labor Day tradition. As soon as you made it to Eastern Parkway the smell of spicy foods, jerk chicken, wood and charcoal burning, loud soca, reggae and calypso music and marchers dressed in costume let everyone know this was to be a fantastic day of celebration.  Brooklyn is home to the most diverse and largest population of West Indians in the city and the roughly two million strong came out to party and dance to their favorite songs. The West Indian Labor Day Parade is unlike any other in the city.  The parade starts around Schenactady Ave. and Eastern Parkway; if you hear a truck playing your favorite song you can hop over the railing and join the group and dance all the way to Grand Army Plaza…hop an a train and ride a few stops to the start of the parade and do it all over again.  Of course you can always walk back and stop at the many kiosks for some delicious Caribbean food. Close to noon came the distant sound of the NYPD steel drum band to let everyone know the parade was kicking off.

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Bill DeBlasio working the crowd

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Masqueraders having fun

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Indians at play

     This being an election year and the election primary just a week away, all the political hopefuls were out in full force to make their presence known. All the politicians were out shaking hands and mixing it up with crowd even though Weiner mostly stayed on his float…guess he was too busy texting to come down and greet the crowd. Front runner Bill DeBlasio had the largest supporters of any mayoral hopeful with Quinn and Thompson close behind..quite similar to the recent polls.  All in all it was about an hour of politicians schmoozing it up and making one last appeal to the Caribbean community. Then the fun really started with the first of many trucks loaded with monster speakers played the crowds favorite songs with the mc leading the way for that group. Lots of masqueraders in their colorful costumes with feathers and little else on danced their way down the parade route. The first major group were the Savage Paradise group with lots of costumes representing the diverse culture. Not far behind them was the Ramajay Mas group that really got the crowd worked up with their music and sexy dancing. They had one of the best presentations with their Then and Now theme dance. I am sure they scored high points with the judges. Soon after them came the highlight of the parade with the breathtaking costume of this year’s Queen winner, the black and white Queen.  She was amazing to watch. Nothing after that matched the detail and glamorous style of the Queen. Another group that was fun to watch were the TNT Boys. The party just kept on going with truck after truck after truck blaring some good sounds for everyone to dance to from one side of Eastern Parkway to the other. Of all the parades I watched this year, this parade is by far the most fun I have had.  If you have a pulse, you will have fun.  Raise your flag!!!

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A Call For Unity at the West Indian Day Parade

4 Sep

    

     Once you turned any corner on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn this past Labor Day, you were hit with the scent of spicy foods, jerk chicken, roti and lots of other delicious foods. Kiosks were set up with vendors selling foods, flags, and fruits all along the Parkway. It’s a marvelous sight seen only once a year when people of all the West Indie nations come out to celebrate with lots of music, dance, amazing costumes and lots of representation of the culture. This the city’s largest parade and with over 2 million revelers and marchers expected on the parade route, it’s truly an experience to be had at least once in your lifetime. The crowd was starting to get thicker around noon just at the start of the parade when the NYPD Band broke out the steel drums and  got the huge party started. You just knew this was going to be a special day when none other than the King of Calypso, Harry Belafonte, the parade Grand Marshall saluted the crowd as he made his way to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Local politicians greeted the crowd and most the times it’s not really that interesting but one particular display stood out. A banner designed by Yves Rene with all the flags of the Caribbean nations and the motherland flag of Africa in the center called for unity among the various nations. In unity there is strength and hopefully that message thrives and might spark more interest in a fresh movement to bring all the people of the Caribbean together.  But for now the party was just getting started and after the politicos passed on by the fun really started when a group from Dominica marched up in costume followed by a lively marching band.

     The first of many tractor trailers filled with monster speakers and deejays was from 2K12 The Rebirth with lots of masqueraders and a large crowd following. They got the crowd worked up and ready to dance. Some folks jumped over the iron guard railing to join in the fun and dance to their favorite songs. If you have been to this parade before, it is truly one of the most unique parades in NYC. Other than amazing costumes and great music, it’s the only parade where you can hop over the fence and dance with one group until the end of the parade route then hop on a train and go back to Utica Ave. where the parade starts and do it all over again. Only in NY…only in Brooklyn.  This year the spacing of the monster trucks was good enough so the music did not drown out the others. Kaios International Mas had a nice representation of masqueraders but the Phoenix Boomstation had their people dancing wildly. Not to be outdone was Ramajay Mas but the show stealers were the stilt walkers and incredible dancers from Dugolay visiting from Massachusetts. They tore it up. As the dancers and masqueraders made their way to the reviewing stand by the Brooklyn Museum and show their dance moves to the judges, most of the crowd took in the festivities with great pride and love for thier country. One group that really shook up the crowd were the NYC Freaks and they did live up to their name. Crowd control is always an issues especially when about 2 million people are having a great time. Props definitely go out to the NYPD for responding quickly whenever there were any disturbances.  To close out the celebration were some of the more elaborate costumes I have ever seen. It must have taken months to get the costumes ready. And one quick note, the Haitian Digitel truck was late again and didn’t make it down the parade route and had to turn off on Bedford Ave. as the sanitation trucks beat them to the spot. A little earlier next time guys. They have one of the best trucks and the best music in the parade and lots of people didn’t  get to see them this year. But from what the crowd did get to see, it was up to this point the best parade of the city this year.

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