Brooklyn’s Panamanians celebrate 22nd annual festival

Band sounds: From left, Josue Gonzalez, Joaquin DeLeon, Ariel Rochester, and Ferdinand Edward pose with their instruments at the 22nd Panamanian Independence parade in Crown Heights on Oct. 7.
Photo by Zoe Freilich

Panama querida!

Thousands descended on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights to celebrate the 22nd annual Panamanian Independence parade on Oct. 7. The yearly festival commemorates the country’s sovereignty, and honors their traditions with a show of Panamanian culture. For many frequenters, the parade consistently grows by the numbers and gets better every year, said one participant.

“It was great and one of largest crowds I’ve seen,” said Omar Thorpe, who came to vend Creme and Cocoa ice cream at the parade’s concluding food fest. “I’ve been going to it for years it’s gotten so popular that even a lot more people from Panama are coming for the parade.”

Thorpe, who is Panamanian-American, said his favorite part of the gathering is getting to taste the various foods, meeting relatives and friends, and watching the entertainment of the bandas — musical bands that march down the route.

“I always enjoy seeing the marching bands — they’re all distinctly different from each other and have a distinctive rhythm section,” he said. “It’s always a nice show of pageantry.”

Other participants were dressed in traditional costumes and folk bands also showcased their own sounds.

Revelers followed the multi-street route — which starts at Franklin Avenue and Eastern Parkway and ends at President Street and Washington Avenue — to where it concluded with a grand finale food festival at Ronald McNair Park, which offered various types Panamanian food. The day-long parade is an opportunity to experience all of the country’s culture, added Thorpe.

“You get a lot of it in one shot — a parade, food festival, and those reunions — you’re fully emerged,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]

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