The Korean Parade on Broadway

It was a Saturday and the Korean Parade was set to go.  Therefore, so was I. 

The day was bright and sunny and I was interested in the parade in an odd way simply because it was on Broadway and I don’t recall having seen one on that avenue before.  (There’s a sort of heirarchy of parades where certain avenues such as Fifth get the biggest and the smaller ones go to other streets such as Madison and 2nd and 6th.)  There had been no publicity about the Korean Parade that I was aware of, which for me tends to mean a small parade which is often very interesting.  Yet, there really isn’t a big link that I’m aware of between mid-town Broadway and the Korean community.  There is a huge community out in Queens and I’m sure many live in Manhattan, but I was wondering why they weren’t holding it in Queens.  (On the other hand, I don’t think many Nigerians live on Second Avenue, but their consulate is there and is probably a hub of their social network.)  Nevertheless, I expected to see an interesting parade with some very interesting displays.

And I got it.

The parade started just about on time with the usual “cops on horses”.


The parade was from 41st Street down to 23rd.  I was at 37th.  The day was a bright and sunny day, but I had positioned myself in a shadier area.  Later, as the earth kept turning and the sun kept creeping in, the brightness would become an issue.

There were really two signature parts of the parade.  Well, maybe it’s better to say that there were two sights in the parade that I found more interesting than the others.  First, was what I can only refer to as the “head whirl”.  This was a marcher who had a sort of whirligig on his/her head that had a long white ribbon.  By twisting the head just right, the ribbon would circle the user.  It was a very nice visual.


Later in the parade, there would be a number of the headwhirlers walking together, appropriately spaced out of course.

A common sight and sound during the parade were the drummers.  In the below case, wearing a hat/headcovering that was very colorful.


The music was pleasant, the drumming was very good; but the crowd was sparse.


Note that the crowd wasn’t particularly Korean, either.  It wasn’t quite as lopsided as the Nigerian Parade (where I think maybe I saw very few Nigerians who weren’t in the parade), but there were very few Korean nationals in the crowd.

The usual dignitaries did arrive.


As usual, I’ve no idea who they are.

I didn’t see a single New York politician participating.

There were a number of social groups that participated.  Among them were the Korean-Germany Association.


Another group was the Sygnman Rhee Association that commemorates the first post-WWII Korean president.  There were Korean-American police officers, a group that maintains cultural ties for Koreans adopted by Americans, and Korean Air had a nice float (pic below).


My favorite group was this bunch:  Korean War Veterans.  Technically, the war continues but this group may have taken part in that incredible 1950-53 part of the war.


Getting back to the “signature” parts of the parade, the second most arresting visual was something that was called “The Royal Procession of Great King Sejong”.  It took up the entire middle part of the parade.  There were two characters who may have portrayed the Great King, but neither was marked as such.  Here are some pictures from the procession.


The horns they were playing gave out sort of a kazoo-sound.  Actually, it sounded much better than that, but that’s the closest I can describe it.

This section was a very solemn procession, but I did catch one guy showing some personality.


But note the paucity, even the absence of viewers behind him (on the sunny side of the street).

During this time, some of the head-whirlers gave a display.  Very well done, but impossible to really capture in still pictures.


And, probably, one of the Great King characters.


Later, another figure may have also been the King.


I often talk about the “men in skirts” phenomenon.  They sort of had it here, but they were more robes than a native dress that resembled the modern skirt.  I’ve also mentioned a character with a beard wearing a skirt (and parrot and tie-dyed dog):  not seen at this parade.

But this was a new one:  women in beards.


They looked like they were portraying ancient scholars.  I don’t know if they’re being women was important to the storyline or whether they just needed people in the march.  Doesn’t matter, but it is still unique in my experience.

Part of the procession had a large drum with one person at each end banging on it.  It sounded good.  But, once again, note the absence of a crowd watching.


An auto company had a car with a woman in national dress.


There were several martial arts displays.  The age ranges were generally pretty young.



The pictures above and below are two of my favorites.  It’s all about their attitudes.


Four girls, four attitudes.  And the little boy looks ready for any trouble that may come his way.

And the drummers were everywhere.


I liked this character.  He was having a grand time.


 And cops weren’t the only ones on horses.


But probably my favorite visual was this picture.  It just shouts out something very…Korean.


An ancient and deep culture.

It was a long parade with lots of pagentry and color.  Overall, it was an excellent display, but to so few of us that it loses a lot of its power.  I always say that much of a parade’s appeal is in its audience.  The two spectacles feed each other and make each other better.

Speaking of this, being New York there had be “another”.  During the parade, I saw one nearby member of the crowd occasionally going out into the parade and taking pictures.  He had a tripod, seemed to “belong” out there, but didn’t appear to be an official photographer.  Right after I saw the “women in beards”, he and I talked (I wanted to make absolutely sure they were women because I was seeing them from a little distance, despite my camera zoom).  It turns out that he’s originally from Russia and goes to all the parades!  Kind of like Famous Ankles (excepting being Russian).  We compared stories and it turns out he’s gone to a lot of the same parades as I have, although he’s more interested in the native costumes and cultures rather than the actual parades.  His photos are strictly for his own viewing and he takes far fewer than I do.

Nevertheless, we both agreed that the day, although beautiful, was way too sunny and set off too many shadows that didn’t photograph well.  I took tons of photos (actually more than 300), but there’s absolutely no room for such volume here.

This weekend has two more parades and we each intend to go to both.  I doubt we’ll see each other as they are much, much larger than the Korean Parade.

But, it was nice meeting you Victor.  Have fun.


Explore posts in the same categories: Broadway, Events, Manhattan, Mid-town, Parades

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