With much fanfare, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) on Thursday, Aug. 11 launched its 49th annual carnival at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, under the theme, “One Caribbean, One People, One Voice.”
Several area representatives joined carnival officials, other dignitaries and masqueraders in the launch of the extravaganza that gets in full steam on Thursday, Sept. 1, culminating with the grand parade on Labor Day, along Eastern Parkway, one of Brooklyn’s major thoroughfares.
“I think it’s great for America, for the culture and heritage of the Caribbean,” said State Sen. Jessie Hamilton, representative for the 20th Senatorial District in Brooklyn, in a Caribbean Life interview, as DJ Colin Gilbert struck up gyrating Caribbean rhythms. “We want to introduce the culture in the schools, so people can understand what’s going on.”
Stephanie Hill Wilchfort, president and chief executive officer of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, said she was delighted to host the launch for the very first time.
“The parade is the most important event in Crown Heights,” she also told Caribbean Life. “They are our neighbors. We could not be more thrilled in hosting this. We’re grateful that WIADCA chose us.”
Trinidadian Jean P. Alexander, WIADCA board secretary and director of public relations and marketing, said, except for the previous two years, when the launch was held at Brooklyn Borough Hall, the event was held for three decades at Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side in Manhattan.
“It’s wonderful because carnival needs open space,” she said about the new venue.
Alexander, who has been a WIADCA member for 40 years, said more than 45 adult and 40 children bands will participate in the carnival, which will also feature 12 steel bands, including one each from Toronto and Philadelphia.
She said 10,000 costumed masqueraders and more than three million spectators are expected to converge on Eastern Parkway on Labor Day for the grand parade.
“We’re going to have a very secured and safe carnival,” Alexander said. “We want the world to know that — plenty, plenty mas.”
She also disclosed that, for the very first time, the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the U.S. Department of State and the American Foundation for the University of the West Indies (UWI) have expressed interest in partnering with WIADCA.
Yolanda Lezama, daughter of WIADCA’s co-founder and late president Carlos Lezama, said she was happy that the organization continues to promote Caribbean culture, adding that it is “important.”
“It’s a huge reunion,” said Ms. Lezama, a WIADCA board member, who was president for 10 years. “We look forward to the glitter and pageantry that are usually seen on the Parkway.”
Portraying “Amazon Rain Forest” for Boom Mas, Grenadian Tijera Thomas said she loved “doing this,” adding that she plays annually.
Another Grenadian, Ranisha McMeo, portraying “Oasis” with Greenz United, attended the launch for the very first time.
“I feel real good,” said McMeo, who will play mas on the Parkway for the third time. “Everybody in Greenz United has a lot of energy. We want a longer time span so we can enjoy more.”
Grace Paulpierie, who was born in Brooklyn to a Haitian mother and a Dominican Republican father, said she was “very excited,” as the Ramajay’s “Caribbean Queen.”
“Every year, it’s amazing,” she said. “It’s a great time to be in New York.”
WIADCA officials said the Brooklyn-based organization pays tribute to Barbados and Guyana on their 50th Anniversary of Independence, while celebrating the five-day festival with reggae, soca, calypso, brass bands, steelbands and costume competitions.
On Thursday, Sept. 1, WIADCA will kick off the carnival, 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 begins 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.
Saturday, Sept. 3, starts off with Junior Carnival (9 am to 5 pm) and Steelband Panorama competition (8 pm).
The next day, Dimanche Gras, showcases the “creative talents of dozens of costume designers as they present scores of breathtaking costumes competing for King and Queen of the Bands, Individuals and Characters,” WIADCA said.
It said the “best in Calypso music” will be on hand, with performances by David Rudder, Natasha Wilson, Gryner, Boodoosingh Tassa Drummers and Something Positive traditional carnival characters.
“North America’s largest dance party on Eastern Parkway” takes place on Labor Day from 11 am – 6 pm, WIADCA said.
It said Grand Marshals include: NY City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; Consul General of Guyana Barbara Atherly; UN Ambassador of Barbados Keith H.L. Tony Marshall; and President and CEO of Brooklyn’s Conrad’s Bakery Conrad Ifill.