For at least the second successive year, revelers, masqueraders and millions of spectators enjoyed the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade in picture perfect weather on Brooklyn’s sprawling Eastern Parkway.
With a high of 82 degrees – with gentle breeze and no rain, as forecast – it was unequivocally the perfect weather for the explosion of the sight, sounds, pageantry, artistry and everything else West Indian.
The cornucopia of colors and the potpourri of West Indian dishes that wafted the air brought the best out of West Indians, including over 3 million onlookers who converged for the 49th annual extravaganza.
Antiguan Wendy Hamilton journeyed from Peekskill to play mas with Gems of the Caribbean.
“I come to have fun,” said Hamilton, accompanied by Jennifer Archibald, of St. Thomas, and her daughter Dawn Archibald. “It’s time for us to express our culture – what we grew up with.”
Hamilton said she and other members of Gems of the Caribbean were paying tribute to band leader Dhalia Fahie, of St. Thomas, who succumbed to cancer, at 47, on Jul. 30.
Nearby, Devon Gittens, of St. George’s, Grenada, lay on some small oil cans in a shopping card, his entire body painted black with dripping black tar.
“This is ‘Jab Jab,’” he said, biting dried smoke herring. “Grenada – not even Trinidad and Tobago – is the only country that play that on J’Ouvert morning.
“It feels great!” he exclaimed. “That’s my culture, bro. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid.”
Kiana Arthurton, who was born in the Bronx to a Nevisian father, said she was playing mas for the very first time.
“I like it,” she said, playing for Freaks Mas, flanked by Guyanese Sherlana Cummings and Grenadian Natalie Raynor.
“I’ve been playing since 2007,” intoned Cummings. “I love it every year.”
Trinidadian Jovanna Jack came from Jamaica, Queens to play with Dingolay Mas.
“I feel good, as a proud Trinidadian,” she said. “Excited!”
Hampstead, Long Is. resident Antonia Saunders-Guerra, who hails from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, brought her two daughters, Pacika and Patonia, and her son’s girlfriend, Angel Conteh, of Sierra Leone, to play with Dongolay.
Barbadian Silleta Davis portrayed “Selu Cherokee Goddess – the Last Tribe” for Freaks Mas.
“This is what I love to do,” said the Boston, MA resident.
Jamaican Fatima Collins echoed similar sentiments, playing with Cocoa Diamond: “I love it!”
“Good, good, I feel good,” exclaimed Guyanese Andrea Narine, playing for the Richmond Hill, Queens-based Backyard Republik, hastening to catch up with the rest of the band.
A contingent from the Brooklyn-based Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center donned caps and gowns in “Jumping for Education.”
“I think the Friends of Crown Heights does a lot for the Vincy community,” said Jacintha Ballantyne, whose name has been popularized by the pre-eminent Vincentian calypsonian Alston “Becket” Cyrus, with “Jacintha Could Wine.”
For the last 15 years, Ballantyne has been playing mas with the local SVG Players.
Further up the Parkway, Michael Ashley carried a huge costume for 1199’s “Enchanted Garden.”
“I love it,” said the Venezuelan native. “I’ve been playing all my life.”
A few yards away, St. Lucian Ashley Norbert, 12, played for Tropical Fete.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I like the attention. I just want to shout out my people from Gros Islet [St. Lucia].”
Carrying a huge costume for Ramajay Mas, Trinidadian Percy Maynard, said he enjoyed the gaiety.
“I’ve been doing this for a very long time,” he said. “This is what I like to do. I love big mas.”
As masqueraders from Sesame Flyers assembled at the corner of Buffalo Avenue and Eastern Parkway, a DJ bellowed: “We ready to start the carnival. It’s still morning in carnival terms.”
But Keisha Stewart, of Montego Bay, Jamaica, was already having a time of her life with Boom Mas.
“I do it every year – six years in a row,” she said, swaying to the soca beat.
The gigantic parade culminated five days of carnival that began on Thursday, as the organizers, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), kicked off the annual spectacle, with “Reggae Unda Di Stars”, featuring world-famous reggae entertainers – including Third World, Luciano, Christopher Martin and Romain Virgo.
On Friday, WIADCA’s annual “Stay in School Concert” and College Fair took place, at 11 am, followed by the “Brass Fest Concert”, with headliners KES The Band, Roy Cape All Stars, Outta Limitz, Farmer Nappy, Blaxx, Ricardo Drue, Lyrikal, Skinny Fabulous and more.
On Saturday, the Junior Carnival and Steelband Panorama competition was conducted.
Sunday night’s Dimanche Gras showcased the “creative talents of dozens of costume designers, as they present [ed] scores of breathtaking costumes competing for King and Queen of the Bands, Individuals and Characters,” WIADCA said.
It said the “best in Calypso music” was on hand, with performances by David Rudder, Natasha Wilson, Gryner, Boodoosingh Tassa Drummers and Something Positive traditional carnival characters.
Grand Marshals for the parade included: Melissa Mark-Viverito, NY City Council Speaker; Barbara Atherly, Consul General of Guyana; Keith H.L. Tony Marshall, UN Ambassador of Barbados; and Conrad Ifill, the Trinidadian-born president and chief executive officer of Brooklyn’s Conrad’s Bakery.