The annual Dominican Day Parade in NYC (will they vote for Miguel?)

Today (Sunday) was the annual NYC Dominican Day parade for the Dominican Republic.  I have to be specific because there is an island nation called Dominica, but they don’t seem to rate big, noisy, raucous, big, and noisy parades.  Wow!

The parade was on Sixth Avenue (AKA “Avenue of the Americas”, which no New Yorker calls it, but is appropriate for today).  The parade was from 1pm to 5pm and started at 36th Street and went, I believe, to 62nd Street (that’s right next to Central Park).  I knew it would be big, but I’ve been to big parades:  Puerto Rican Day, Thanksgiving, St. Patricks, among others.  I figured this would be well attended.  It was more than “well attended”.  It seems that everyone who even knows someone in the Dominican Republic was there.  Huge crowds.

I took my trusty new camera and immediately had problems.  Not with the pictures, though.  Instead, I decided to test out the video camera portion of it.  It worked great.  But, I couldn’t seem to get back to regular picture-taking mode.  I was hitting every button on the camera and trying every combination of setup and the like.  Finally, it started working again.  However, I did manage to get about 15 megabytes (about 1 minute) of video that does capture the crowd pretty well.  I’m not posting that.

Anyway, the Dominicans in attendance did seem to have an affection for whistles.  There was also some instrument that resembles nothing so much as a circular cheese grater.  It sounded a bit like the shake of a tamborine.  Some of the whistlers blew in a sort of tune with a cheese grater guy, but that was just a couple of people.  Usually, they just blew the whistles long and hard.

Dominican Day big crowds

I was at Bryant Park, the corner of 42nd Street and 6th Avenue.  There’s an elevated part and I managed to get to the top of the stairs, about 3 feet higher than the crowd in front of me.  Overall, the crowd in front of me was 6 or 7 people deep.  That’s the deepest I’ve seen any parade except Thanksgiving (which is a special case).

As usual, I was the whitest white guy there.  Although I was at a position that was off to the side, there was a near constant flow of people walking through the crowd around me to get to the sidewalk area that the cops were keeping moving.  I figured that maybe I was something of a beacon, “Let’s push through to that guy and then get to the sidewalk.”  “Which guy?”  “The really white guy.  You can’t miss him.” 

Almost all of the people cutting through were faultlessly polite.  Some had no need for politeness.  They had other means to get the crowds to part.

Guy with snake

Yes, that’s a snake around his neck.  We parted like the Red Sea.  He was one of three guys with snakes around his neck walking through the crowd (you can see another of them right behind him).  After the parade, I saw two more.

Anyway, the parade started at 1pm and the crowd, which was already pretty wound up, cranked the noise level to 11.

The parade featured a number of different participants, but the radio stations seemed to be the all-out favorites.  The crowd wanted loud, loud music; and the politicians really didn’t provide it.

There were a few new sights at this parade.  There were groups of what I can only describe as “colorful characters”.  I’m sure they are symbolic of some folk traditions, but I don’t know what they might be.

Colorful

Some of them had horns (really long horns) and some had devilish masks, and some just had bullwhips.  Yep, bullwhips.  That’s a new one on me.  At one point, about 20 characters came out cracking their whips and the crowd loved it.  Me, too.  Then there was a small group of others and then a group of kids with bullwhips.  They were really into it, but they just couldn’t crack the whips like their elders.

A standard sight at most NYC parades:  the large flag.
Large flag

And a non-standard sight, an unadorned rental truck (well, except for the grafitti).  I honestly have no idea what it was about.  It had no real place in the parade and was almost as if they had pulled out from a garage into the parade route.  If so, they had the ride of their lives.
rental truck

One thing I always seem to note in NYC parades.  I call it the “men-in-skirts” phenomenon.  With a bunch of the ethnic parades, I know what the men-in-skirts is about.  For example, the St. Patricks and the Scottish parades have men in kilts.  The Greek parade has their traditional army uniform.  Others have national dress stuff that looks like “skirts”.  I always expect something along these lines and the Dominicans supplied it.  I tried to get a picture.  I really tried.  The crowd went too wild when he was there and I couldn’t photograph him.  Who?  I haven’t the foggiest idea, but he was a bearded man in a woman’s dress (not a traditional outfit that I could tell) who also wandered about (more liked leaped and rushed about) with a parrot on his head.  Maybe an homage to a pirate?

Another sight of note:  a guy with an evil clown tattoo.  A big tattoo, that is.  Definitely an evil clown.  It still isn’t the most horrendous tattoo I’ve seen in NYC.

Another sight of note:  the cops were some of the biggest instigators of the crowds loudness.  A nearby cop was throwing toy cars and keychains up in the air and kept causing occasional lunges by crowd members.

Another sight of note:  my favorite moment in the parade (the snake was a close second) was a group of maybe 80 kids in bright, bright dress doing a run and jump routine.  Nicely done.  Very colorful and very invigorating.

A special moment:  it took 55 minutes before the first marching band.  Every parade has marching bands.  Constant ones.  The Dominicans had no need.  The second marching band came at 1 hour and 20 minutes into the parade.  I didn’t see any other after that.

The low point of the parade was when one of the political figures’ started to have their time in the sun.  I don’t know who Miguel is, but he’s running for president (I presume of the Dominican Republic) and his supporters put on the biggest damper around.  The crowd didn’t get quiet (no way for that), but there was about a 75% reduction in enthusiasm over the 25 minutes or so of the Miguel group’s march.  They just kept coming and they had no music.  The crowd wanted music!  Then, there was a bit of music coming from Miguel’s group, but it quickly passed.  Yawnsville ensued.  Finally, another group in the devils’ costumes came in and the music started anew and the crowd came back to life.

The low point outside of the parade:  at around 3pm, I was just standing there and a fight broke out right next to me.  It appeared that some people were, once again, trying to cut through the crowd and somebody resisted and somebody else threw a couple of punches.  Within an instant, there were two twenty-ish guys on the ground and then they popped up and one took off.  The other reached into his pocket for something, but it was only for something like a phone or camera that he handed to a friend and then took off after the first guy.  Not fast enough to catch him though.  My camera was ready.  I could have taken a picture, but I realized that my camera does flash automatically and I really didn’t want to draw their attention.  I didn’t move when it broke out and the crowd to my right stayed in place, but everyone to the left of me bolted about 1 second after the start.

That became another annoyance.  The old crowd was replaced by a new one.  This time, a young woman and her boyfriend were next to and in front of me.  The girl kept talking and talking (at one point, she called a friend on her cell phone and was screaming over the music).  Forgive me, but her voice sounded so much like a duck that I could barely contain myself.  I had to leave after a while.

And so, I ankled my way back to my co-op and managed a short nap.

-H

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One Comment on “The annual Dominican Day Parade in NYC (will they vote for Miguel?)”

  1. Mike Losquadro Says:

    Hello,

    My name is Mike Losquadro, my fiancee and I were balloon handlers for Shrek in this year’s parade. I asked her to marry me on the route, on the west side of 6th ave. between 42nd and 41st streets right behind the Shrek balloon. I keep seeing the picture of Shrek in between 2 NYPD officers taken on the corner of 42nd st. and 6th ave. That picture was taken about 2 minutes before I proposed to my fiancee Gina. That moment is so memorable but unfortunately I cannot find a picture of us anywhere. I’ve been kicking myself daily for not arranging someone to be there with a camera but I didn’t want to ruin the surprise, she was right next to me the whole day. I was wondering if that moment was caught perhaps in the background of another photograph. There were clowns walking with Shrek and actually one of them doused us with confetti as I was asking her.

    Any help would not only be greatly appreciated but also cherished for the rest of our lives. I’m willing to purchase the picture or do whatever I can to obtain the picture.

    Thank you for your time, I appreciate your efforts.

    Happy Holidays!!

    Mike Losquadro


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