Cultural cornucopia: Costumes and cuisine delight spectators at annual Caribbean parade

Celebrating spice island: Young and older revelers wave the multicolored national flag of Grenada, also known as isle of spice, at the West Indian American Day carnival parade.
Photo by Paul Martinka

This parade packed tons of Caribbean flavor!

Millions of revelers queued up along Eastern Parkway on Monday for the 51st-annual West Indian Day Parade, which offered spectators a feast for the eyes — and stomachs, according to a vendor who peddled homemade cuisine along the route.

“We were selling faster than we could make some of the food,” said Carol Warner, who traveled from Manhattan to plate her grub at the event.

Warner and her sister Ramona Warner Alexander hawked delicacies from their native St. Kitts — including fish cakes, a sausage dish of black pudding, and a savory “goat water” stew — that the cooks spent hours preparing for the affair’s more than three-million expected attendees, many of whom came out looking for a taste of home, she said.

“Some of these recipes are tedious, but a lot of people don’t make it back a lot, so we wanted to bring that to them,” Warner said.

The sisters said they took their culinary turn at the parade five years ago, after regularly attending it as observers and sometime marchers with the mas-and-steel bands that process along the route, which runs along Eastern Parkway from Schenectady Avenue to Grand Army Plaza, where it proceeds on Flatbush Avenue towards Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.

This year, they stationed their booth on the parkway between Bedford and Franklin avenues — a prime position that drew folks coming and going via the nearby Franklin Avenue subway station, and plenty of St. Kitts expats as well, according to Warner.

“There was a lot of energy out there,” she said. “Kittitians always come out and support everything we make.”

And although business boomed throughout the hours-long festivities, the vendors made a point to step out from behind their cart and into the carnival celebration itself, which featured appearances by pols including Gov. Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio, who came with wife Chirlane McCray.

“Sometimes we would yell ‘break!’ and start dancing for a while,” Warner said. “And our customers would dance with us.”

The first marchers in the West Indian Day Parade began stepping around 11 am, but many of the day’s revelers hit the streets far earlier for the annual J’Ouvert parade, which kicked off as dawn broke at 6 am under heightened security that returned this year after the strict measures implemented in 2017 prevented fatalities that plagued previous celebrations.

The beefed-up police presence — which included more than 3,500 officers, hundreds of floodlights, and more than a dozen checkpoints where officers confiscated large bags, alcohol, and weapons — led to no deadly incidents along its zig-zagging route from Flatbush Avenue to Midwood Street for the second-straight year, but did not stop violent behavior entirely.

A shooter fired a bullet into the buttock of a 25-year-old man on Nostrand Avenue between Prospect Place and St. Marks Avenue blocks from the festivities around 7:30 am, according to cops, who said the victim was taken to Kings County Hospital for treatment and is in stable condition.

And hours earlier, two women were hit by gunfire as they entered a Flatbush Avenue restaurant near the parade route in Prospect Lefferts-Gardens around 2:30 am, the New York Daily News reported.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.

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