Ankling to the West Indian Day Parade

Monday morning.  Labor Day.  Famous Ankles is tired and needs to do some personal chores and absolutely, positively, undeniably needs to have a day off from wanderings and blogging.  Until the TV story:  the West Indian Day Parade is today!  It’s big, it’s glorious, and it’s one of those events you can’t miss!  “Oh, yeah?,” I reply.  I’ll miss it.  I wasn’t going to go all the way back to Brooklyn just to see a parade.  No way.  I was still weary from Brazilian Day’s wanderings and waitings.

And, then I went to the West Indian Day Parade.

A lot of what you’ll read in the following may be indicative of my state of mind, but I don’t think so.  There’s no doubt that the West Indian Day Parade is huge and it has attractions that I really haven’t seen at other parades.  But, it isn’t a particularly good parade.  The downsides are such that, in the Famous Ankles pantheon of great NYC parades, the West Indian Day Parade ranks near the bottom.

That’s a bit of heresy, I guess.  Overall, I didn’t enjoy the parade.  Yes, the colors were eye-blinding.  Many of the women were wonderfully attractive.  The music was so loud that it shook my bones more than the Puerto Rican Day Parade did (and that’s saying something).  But….

Take a look at the pictures.  I’ll give some commentary; but look to see what you don’t see.

I took the subway down to Nostrand Street and found that the parade had already started.  However, it’s a very slow parade (as you’ll find out), so I didn’t miss much.

There were colorful women.

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The parade is held on Eastern Parkway.  As you can see, it’s a pretty wide boulevard.  The cool thing about having the parade here is that the parkway is paralleled by a sidestreet on each side.  Vendors were jammed all along the pathway.

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Incidentally, curried goat generally sold for $8.  I didn’t partake (I’ve had occasions where street food has caused…difficulties.  I’ve mentioned that I seldom indulge).  The interesting food item that I haven’t seen before was a type of fried fish.  It seemed to be a fish, head and all, that had been rolled in a light dough and then fried to a crispy brown.  I don’t know about the bones and such.  I didn’t partake. 

The first spate of marchers went by pretty quickly.  There was a delay, so Famous Ankles started to take a walk.  I first headed west and caught up to, and passed, the earlier marchers.  But I was heading toward Grand Army Plaza.  Been there, done that.  I wanted new ground.  So I reversed and headed into the heart of Crown Heights.

The crowds were big.  I had heard that 3 million were expected.  Now, I eventually walked most of the parade route and I saw a WHOLE bunch of people.  But 3 million?  I didn’t keep track so I’ll have to let the official counts (whereever they are) be my guide.

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I will say this.  Lots and lots of cops.  This event can have a violent side.  I later heard that three people had been shot.  As far as I know, not at the parade.  I didn’t see any suggestion of violence and I went everywhere.  But the parade is just part of the larger festival so it may have happened over the different evenings.  Maybe that’s where the rest of the 3 million were.

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Traditional costumes.  Yeah, that’s what they were…traditional costumes.

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Like I said.  The parade was slow.  There was a lot of waiting around.

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So, I kept up my walking.  Famous Ankles is peripatetic, so it was off to the sidestreet and continuing on to the source of the parade:  Utica Street.

Lots of music and spectators on the side.  This group was actually a bit lively.  And loud.  Oh yeah, loud.

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And the parade actually seemed to have stopped.  I noticed that it had been something like half an hour since I had seen/heard any marchers.  I took a long look down toward the direction they were to come from.

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Nothing.  I began to wonder if the parade was over.  It wasn’t.  Not by a long shot.  Maybe after 45 minutes total, they started up again.  This time, with a lot more colors and brightly dressed women.

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Rhetorical question.  Do you not see what I wasn’t seeing?  Ain’t it amazing?  (Okay, two questions.  But look at the crowd.  That’s where you don’t see it.)

I didn’t know how to classify these costumes.  In my notes, I just called them “colorful” or “colorfuls”.

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At this point, the parade of “colorfuls” became jam-packed.  They all didn’t have the full huge costumes, but they made up for it in numbers.

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(Do you not see it again?)  The music was loud.  In the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the music would thud throughout my chest.  Here, that plus through my skull. 

I was wearing earplugs.  Good earplugs.  (That’s one of the prime rules of parade-going.  If someone tells you to take earplugs…TAKE EARPLUGS!)

I guess when they call it the West Indian, some people take “Indian” more seriously than the “West” part of it.  Okay, there is the American West.

 20070903-west-indian-day-parade-32-american-indian-part-of-parade.jpg

Others just loved the regalia, whereever it came from.  Yes, those West Indian Vikings are the stuff of legend.

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I’m going to end this post.  It’s just too long with too many photos so far.  I’ll continue with more photos in a later post.

However, here’s the solution to the thing you didn’t see.  Crowd excitement.  There was none.  None.  Even during the music, I really didn’t see enthusiasm.  I’ve brought up the Puerto Rican Day Parade several times.  In that parade, even at well before the beginning when the crowd was just standing around, there was whooping and shouting and, well, excitement.  Flags being waved (seldom seen in the West Indian Day Parade even though most people seemed to have one in hand).  Whistles being blown (I only heard one at the West Indian).  People with horns and other sound-makers (unnoticed by me at the West Indian).  The only times there was excitement was when one of the DJs on the float would demand the crowd wave their flags or whatever.  They tried (the DJs, that is).  The only place with some excitement was the sidestreet.  They were having a good time….but not a Puerto Rican Parade kind of excitement either.

Overall, I’m not at the parade to see the floats (most are boring).  Nor the politicians.  And not even the music.  I’m there to share in the experience, and when people are bored…it’s not a great experience.

-H

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2 Comments on “Ankling to the West Indian Day Parade”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Okay I compared the pics to the Pakistan parade, and honestly I don’t get it. The level of enjoyment appeared the same. Granted you dedicated a few pics to the man at the Pakistan parade who seem to be high on being at the parade and expressing his nationalism. But the WI folks seem to be enjoying the parade and you did capture the movement and enjoyment of some “paraders” (gosh is that a word).

  2. famousankles Says:

    The real difference is in the comparison. I didn’t compare the Pakistan Parade attendees with the West Indian Parade attendees if for no other reason than the cultures are so very different. In fact, the Pakistan parade attendees were closer in exuberance to the Puerto Rican Day attendees than the West Indians were. Yet, I’d suppose the Puerto Ricans and the West Indians would have a lot more in common and would be roughly equally enthused. The pictures on the Pakistan parade actually don’t show the attendees that much (other than the “Mom and Dad” sequence). The crowd at the Pakistan parade really did wave their flags more, even with fewer flags.

    Perhaps part of the problem is that there were so many island nations being represented in the West Indian parade. Less nationalism? Perhaps, but I still saw a lot of people wearing their flags as capes in both parades. It’s just that I saw a lot of somber faces even during the rare times that a float was going past. There was more action and enjoyment in the side street than in the parade watchers. (But even there it was subdued.)

    Ultimately, it’s just my perception. Maybe I’m wrong, but I kept notes and I just kept writing about how bored people seemed.


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