As Labor Day Weekend marked the unofficial end of summer, millions of participant and spectators celebrated in Brooklyn during the annual West Indian American Parade & Carnival. The Labor Day Carnival Parade is an outdoor festival that highlights the cultures of nations across the West Indies.
The 2011 West Indian American Parade & Carnival took place on September 5 and showcased a day packed with music, dance, and international cuisine The show stopping performances during this year’s 43rd annual parade was one of the biggest ever seen in Brooklyn. The parade route ran along busy Eastern Parkway.
With a combination of many Caribbean cultures coming together for the parade, this yearly festivity is one of the largest cultural events in all of New York City. The celebrations began in Brooklyn a few days prior to the main parade that took place on Labor Day. Countries including Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados were represented, along with a variety of other Caribbean nations.
The original West Indian American Parade & Carnival started in Harlem in the 1940’s, but was then moved to its current home in Brooklyn in the 1960’s. Remaining on the same route, Eastern Parkway annually lights up with the sights and sounds of the Caribbean.
The parade gets its foundation from the traditions of carnivals throughout the Caribbean, where bright costumes and days of exciting music fill up the streets in preparation for Lent. Although this custom has been redirected towards the time around Labor Day, the beauty of these cultures are still a yearly tradition in Brooklyn.
The parade’s signature theme is to bring out the unique cultural traditions of each country through ornately colorful floats that make their way down Eastern Parkway. Thousands of participants dressed up in vibrant costumes and danced atop the decorated floats. The colors of the rainbow were displayed on Caribbean influenced designs, and often included large headpieces flanked with feathers.
Months of preparation go into the designs of the f loats and costumes to make the West Indian American Parade & Carnival one of the most detailed and radiant festival throughout New York City. Along with the sights of the parade were the distinct sounds of the festival. Caribbean music was played throughout the duration of the parade.
Everything from Jamaican reggae to Trinidadian calypso could be heard along Eastern Parkway. One of the highlights of the parade was the abundance of steel drums. Many groups skillfully playing the steel drums performed and competed for the title of the best steel drum band of the year.
The energetic music from guitars, drums, congas, and other instruments got the massive crowds dancing their way through the parade. The tastes of Caribbean cuisine were also a main event during the parade. As is true for many cultures around the world, food is one of the main examples of how uniquely different these countries can be.
Local cooks and chefs came together to serve plates of delicious food from their home countries. Vendors lined the street selling dishes of oxtail, jerk chicken, coconut bread and fried plantains, among many other choices. The array of cultural cuisine was astounding and was a great display of the local food in the Caribbean.
Over three million people enjoyed this year’s West Indian American Parade & Carnival. A large population of New York City inhabitants comes from Caribbean nations. The parade was bursting at the seams with excitement and pride in their distinct cultures.
The annual parade brought participants and onlookers dressed in costumes and with painted faces to Eastern Parkway, and enjoyed a weekend long celebration of the Caribbean.