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West Indian Day Parade to celebrate Caribbean culture in Brooklyn

BY VICTOR PORCELLI

CROWN HEIGHTS — The blockbuster West Indian Day Parade is poised to return to Eastern Parkway on Labor Day, Sept. 2, and organizers hope to attract a larger crowd than in the recent past.

There have been fewer attendees over the last couple of years, according to West Indian American Carnival Day Association President Jean Joseph, who told Brooklyn Reporter, “We are inviting people to come back to the parkway. It is based on increasing the mass, increasing our spectators, because over the years we have lost some of the mass to Miami.”

This year’s parade will be the 52nd in what is an annual celebration whose goal is to salute the culture of the Caribbean, through compelling music — including soca, calypso, reggae and steelpan — as well as gorgeous costumes worn by participants, many of whom ride on elaborate floats; and the food of the region — spicy, smoky jerk, soothing rice and peas, and the complex, perfumed flavors of curry.

The parade is the culmination of WIADCA’s New York Caribbean Carnival Week, beginning on Thursday, Aug. 29, which is studded with other events, such as concerts and dances, with the center of activity based at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway.

One highlight is the Junior Carnival — Saturday, Aug. 31, this year, beginning at 9 a.m. — at which local kids can strut their stuff in costumes mirroring those worn by adults in the main parade.

Joseph said that this year’s message is “come back to the parkway,” referring to the location of the parade, which goes down Eastern Parkway from Schenectady Avenue to Grand Army Plaza.

Started by Jessie Wardell in Harlem in the 1930s, the carnival’s first iteration was large costume parties held in ballrooms during the winter. Eventually, the nature of the celebration — light attire and dancing — led to it being held during warmer months, as it is today.

Wardell and future organizers of the events  — including Rufus Goring, who brought Carnival to Brooklyn in the 1960s, and Carlos Lezama, who grew the event from 1967 till his retirement in 2001 — mainly came from Trinidad and Tobago. Attendees come from all over the Caribbean, however, as well as many other places.

“The parade is based on the Caribbean culture; we promote and celebrate all aspects of Caribbean heritage,” Joseph said.

Joseph, who started as a volunteer in 2010 before serving as an accountant for WIADCA from 2012 to 2017, said she expects three million people to attend this year’s celebration.

“For me, it is very exciting that we are given the chance as Caribbeans to show our culture and our art,” Joseph said.

For more info, or to purchase tickets to concerts, go to http://bit.ly/2KVZsIQ.

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