The West Indian American Day Carnival Association wrapped up its 2012 season recently with an Awards ceremony at Brooklyn Borough Hall. The newly minted president since last April, Thomas Bailey, only the third in the 45-year history of the Association, led the ceremonies. Trinidadian-born Bailey, a retired finance professional, has been involved with WIADCA for over 20 years. The 2011 Award recipients were also recognized at the event.
Because of New York’s wintery weather, the Carnival parade, which started in Harlem in 1947, was held in September, not February, the typical Caribbean Carnival month. The Eastern Parkway parade, as we know it, began in 1969, organized by the Association, led until 2002 by its leading founder Carlos Lezama, who passed away in 2007.
The 2012 parade had 42 adult bands with over 8500 dancers and musicians participating. More than two million spectators, reveling with the costumed masqueraders and dancing to the Soca rhythms, crowded Eastern Parkway from Utica to the viewing stand at Brooklyn Museum. Vendors lined the sidewalks parallel to the Parkway, fueling their energy with Caribbean delights.
It takes a myriad of sponsors to put on Carnival Week including support from the state government. Last year, New York City Council helped to the tune of $45,000. As for the economic impact, Carnival Week brought into New York City 150 million dollars.
At the Borough Hall Awards ceremony, dozens of shiny trophies waited to be put into the hands of very happy award recipients. Additionally, $150,000 in cash prizes were awarded to the winners.
Natasha Marcellin from St. Lucia works with WIADCA and understands the personal value of Carnival Week. “We’re able to showcase and promote the culture,” she says. “For so many Caribbean-Americans, they’ve heard of carnival, seen it on TV.” This is a time for the next generation to be a part of their heritage.
New York City’s largest cultural festival, with the main parade on Labor Day, falls this year on Sept. 2. Marcellin explained that participating bands must register and attend organizational meetings that begin in June. She is happy to answer questions and to provide participation information; call the WIADCA office at 718-467-1797.
Sharing in the excitement for the recipients of the Awards ceremony at Brooklyn Borough Hall were a few local politicians, police supporters, and of course, long-time parade enthusiasts.
This year, the West Indian American Day Parade & Carnival celebrates its 45th anniversary as it continues to enjoy the distinction of being New York City’s biggest cultural festivals by far.
As in the past, count on crowds to be waving flags from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Grenada, Haiti, and other Caribbean nations in a joyful expression of ethnic heritage and cultural pride.
You do not have to be from the West Indies. Everyone is invited to take part in the spectacle of thousands of marchers in colorful costumes ‘jumpin’ down the parade route to the sounds of reggae and calypso.
A special added-attraction: the aromas of native foods such as Jamaican jerk chicken, Bajan fried flying fish and other soul-satisfying treats at the city’s biggest street festival.
And that’s just on Labor Day.
Takig’ the weekend off. In fact, the entire weekend is devoted to special events — with a special Kiddie Carnival on Saturday, a Dimanche Gras (Fat Sunday) celebration, and an early Monday morning (starting around 3:00 a.m.) J’Ouvert parade, a celebration of steel pan drums that kicks off the main parade beginning at 11:00 a.m.