NYC’s Tartan Day Parade

New York City’s Tartan Day Parade doesn’t have the long history of many of the city’s parades, but it has interesting origins. According to the New York City Tartan Week organizers,

In 1998 the U.S. Senate declared April 6 to be National Tartan Day to recognize the contributions made by Scottish-Americans to the United States. In 1999, two pipe bands and a small but enthusiastic group of Scottish Americans marched from the British Consulate to the UN—our first Parade! Since then, we have grown to include hundreds of pipers, thousands of marchers and many more thousands cheering from the sidelines.

The National Tartan Day New York Committee was formed … in 2002 to organize the Parade and co-ordinate all the associated activities which surround the Parade. There are now so many it has become Tartan Week, with a definition of “week” as anything, so far, from 7-21 days.

Now that we know why they’re marching, let’s watch the parade! As you’ll see, there are plenty of tartans, bagpipes, and drums – although not everyone is wearing plaid. One of the fun things about this parade is that some pipe and drum corps will allow unaffiliated bagpipers to march with them, as long as they can play the 4 songs required for the parade: Scotland the Brave, Rowan tree, Blue Bells of Scotland, and Bonnie Prince Charlie. The sun was shining brightly, so please forgive the lighting in some of these shots.

Now for one of my favorite parts of the parade: the Scottie and Westie dogs!

As we were leaving, I spied this creature peeking out above the crowd – could it possibly be Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster?

Celebrating the Lunar New Year in Flushing, Queens

New York City has the largest Asian-American population in the United States (at latest count approximately 12% of the city’s 8 million residents), so it’s unsurprising that the city is host to numerous Lunar New Year events. Most tourists attend Lunar New Year events in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood, but other boroughs also hold Lunar New Year parades and other celebrations. This year, I decided to watch the Lunar New Year parade in Flushing, Queens. Over half of the Asian-American population lives in the borough of Queens, and Flushing is home to a second Chinatown.

The parade may not be quite so grand as the one in Manhattan, but it was a wonderful celebration of the community. My favorite things in the parade were the brightly colored dragons – they always drew cheers from the crowds as well.

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There were also some child-sized dragons. See what I saw inside the dragon’s head?

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Here are some of the marchers in the parade, dressed in various traditional costumes.

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On a serious note, there was also this brightly decorated car, accompanied by people carrying signs about domestic violence. They were marching with a community organization that provides support for victims of domestic violence.

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Finally, there were plenty of people in various stuffed costumes, from a character from a cartoon to buddhas – and let’s not forget the roosters, as this year is the year of the rooster!

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Want to explore Flushing’s Chinatown for yourself? Take the 7 train all the way to the end of the line, to the Flushing-Main Street station. When you come above ground, you will be in the midst of Chinatown.

NYC’s Pulaski Day Parade

This past weekend was the annual celebration of a long-lasting New York City tradition: the Pulaski Day Parade. Founded 80 years ago, the Pulaski Day Parade celebrates General Casimir Pulaski, an American Revolutionary War hero. After meeting Benjamin Franklin in Paris, the Polish general traveled to North America to fight with the Continental Army against the British. Eventually, after distinguishing himself in support of George Washington’s forces on more than one occasion, the Continental Congress gave Pulaski charge of the first American cavalry. Today, New York City’s Pulaski Day Parade celebrates both Pulaski’s contributions to American independence and Polish-American citizens in the New York City metropolitan area.

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Unsurprisingly, then, the parade begins with this float featuring General Pulaski (or his look-alike).

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This year, the parade’s theme was “Polish-American Youth, in Honor of World Youth Day, Krakow, Poland.” And there were plenty of children and teenagers (as well as adults) in the parade, including some dressed in traditional Polish clothing and Polish scouts.

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Parade float celebrating World Youth Day

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There were also a number of Polish and Polish-American veterans organizations in the parade.

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And, like all parades, bystanders also saw numerous NYC police officers and fire fighters and marching bands.

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A few final miscellaneous photos from this year’s Pulaski Day Parade:

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Honoring Pulaski, who died on October 11, 1779 in the Battle of Savannah, the parade is held in early October each year. The parade marches its way up Fifth Avenue from 39th Street to 56th Street.

Canyon of Heroes

Visitors to lower Manhattan may notice some unusual granite markers embedded in the sidewalks along Broadway. Those granite markers looks like this:

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October 26, 1931 – Henri Phillippe Petain, Marshal of France

The further you walk, the more markers you will see – and they are located on both sides of the street. Each marker lists a date and a person or group of people. But why are they here? The answer is actually located above, on the street corner signs along this path. The stretch of Broadway from the tip of Manhattan, known as the Battery, to City Hall is known as the Canyon of Heroes.

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But what qualifies someone to be included in the Canyon of Heroes, you might ask? All someone needs to do is be the guest of honor at one of New York City’s ticker tape parades! One of the earliest parades along this route was on October 28, 1886, celebrating the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, but ticker tape parades really got their start when American troops began returning home after World War I.

Here’s the granite marker for the start of the Canyon of Heroes. (As you can see from the edge of the photos, some of the sidewalk vendors end up blocking some markers.)

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In all, there have been more than 200 ticker tape parades, and every one has been commemorated with a granite marker. Approximately 130 of those took place during a 20-year period between 1945 and 1965. During time period, heads of state of many countries were honored with parades. It’s interesting to see some of the names of those heads of state today. Although they were known as allies of the United States, some of these heads of state had mixed records when it came to democratic government or human rights issues. The markers show a wide range of international leaders from all over the world.

Here are just a few of the markers for heads of state.

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October 17, 1949 – Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India
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April 7, 1952 – Juliana, Queen of the Netherlands, and Prince Bernhard
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June 1, 1954 – Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia
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November 4, 1955 – Carlos Castillo Armas, President of Guatemala
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June 29, 1959 – Dr. Arturo Frandizi, President of Argentina
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July 5, 1960 – Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand

There are many other markers as well, commemorating milestones in terrestrial and outer space exploration, sports figures and teams, famous cultural figures, and more. Here are some additional examples of some of those markers.

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November 13, 1951 – Women in the Armed Services
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July 7, 1952 – U.S. Olympic Team Send-Off to the Helsinki Games
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July 11, 1957 – Althea Gibson, Wimbledon Women’s Champion
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October 3, 1979 – Pope John Paul II
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June 20, 1990 – Nelson Mandela, African National Congress Leader
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October 29, 1996 – New York Yankees, World Series Champions

Interested in learning more about the ticker tapes parades commemorated in the Canyon of Heroes? This website has more information about them, as well as several historical parade photos and even a podcast.

NYC’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade 2016

It’s been said that New York City has the largest Puerto Rican population outside of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans certainly are significant part of New York City’s cultural diversity and its residents. In fact, in the 2010 U.S. Census almost 9 percent of New York City’s population was Puerto Rican, and the numbers have continued to grow in the past several years. In celebration of New York City’s Puerto Rican residents, the city hosted the 59th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 12, 2016.

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Like in almost all New York City parades, the New York Police Department, New York Fire Department, and various other law enforcement and government agencies marched in the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Often, these agencies’ employees have founded their own Hispanic or Latino cultural associations within their respective agencies.

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I particularly liked the vintage police cars and fire engine.

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Many local and state politicians participate in the parade as well, including New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio. Mayor de Blasio is the one in the white shirt, a traditional Puerto Rican shirt, and waiving the Puerto Rican flag. I heard some of the parade bystanders react with pride because of his clothing choice. (Members of the New York City Council, the governor of the State of New York, and numerous other political figures also marched.)

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But the best parts of the parade were the elements of Puerto Rican culture. There were numerous dance groups and folk characters in costume. There were thousands of red, white, and blue Puerto Rican flags waving in the breeze. Most importantly, there were parade marchers and bystanders enjoying themselves and celebrating their heritage, and the energy was contagious!

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This parade has quite a few people marching in support of various political causes and environmental issues in Puerto Rico or in some way involving Puerto Rican people. One of my favorite photos from the parade was of this couple marching with others in opposition to an environmental concern.

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The parade travels north along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, from 44th Street to 79th Street. Central Park stretches along the parade route starting at 59th Street, offering welcome shade for bystanders but some challenges for taking good photos at times.

NYC’s Greek Independence Day Parade

In addition to warmer weather, Spring in New York City signals an increase in the number of parades. One reason why I love NYC parades is because they celebrate the diversity of our great city. Most recently, the Greek Independence Day Parade marched its way up Fifth Avenue. The first Greek Independence Day Parade in New York City took place in 1938, and it has been held on Fifth Avenue since 1951.

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Greek Independence Day celebrates the Greeks’ independence from the Ottoman Empire on March 25, 1821, but New York City’s parade does not usually take place on that exact date. This year, the parade was held on Sunday, April 10. The parade’s main sponsor is the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York.

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Like all New York City parades, some of the best parts of the Greek Independence Day Parade involve both adults and children marching in traditional dress.

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The parade also includes numerous floats with blue and white colors and various Greek themes.

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The Greek Independence Day Parade usually takes place in late March or early April each year. This year, it ran from 64th Street to 79th Street on Fifth Avenue.

New York City’s Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival

New York City is known for its many parades, but the Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival is unique. Everyone is welcome to participate, and there’s no need to register in advance – just show up in your Easter finery, complete with an Easter hat or bonnet, and you are welcome to join in.

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This isn’t a parade in the traditional sense. There are no decorated floats, and no marching bands. In fact, there really isn’t a lot of organization at all. Parade participants and viewers mingle together, and the parade extends for approximately 6 hours, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. (Don’t worry, you don’t need to attend the entire time. Show up when you want, and leave when you want. There really are almost no rules!)

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Some marchers are dressed for church, wearing hats that are similarly appropriate. Others have created their own hats and coordinating outfits based on any variety of themes, both fun and fantastical.

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The Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival has roots that go back to the 1870s. It is held on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, between 49th and 57th Streets. If you go next year, be prepared for the crowds. This is truly one of those special New York City experiences that everyone wants to participate in!

New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

One of New York City’s most famous parades is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held in Manhattan on March 17 each year. New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has a long history that stretches back to 1762. (I don’t think that there are any NYC parades with a longer tradition!) The parade has so many participants that it lasts approximately 5 hours, offering something for everyone to see. The parade participants march up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street, and the least crowded viewing is in the latter blocks.

One of the key features of the parade is the many Pipe and Drum Corps, many sponsored by Irish societies such as the Emerald Society within New York City’s Police (NYPD) and Fire (FDNY) Departments, but also coming from other organizations. Here are a few of my favorites.

First, the Pipes and Drums of FDNY’s Emerald Society.

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There was the NYPD Band, as well as the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums.

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The New York State Police were also well-represented.

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And here are the Pipes and Drums of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

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There are also associations representing Irish immigrants and their Irish-American descendants, with many having roots going back to the nineteenth century. They are often led by beautiful banners like the ones shown here.

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Galway Assn of NY

County Meath Assn flag

Of course, there are also the marching bands. A number of high school marching bands participate in the parade, like the one shown here. (This is the Cicero-North Syracuse High School Band.)

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The U.S. Armed Services also send bands to perform in the parade, as well as honor guard units. Here is the U.S. Air Force, followed by the U.S. Navy.

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There was the U.S. Military Academy’s West Point Band.

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And even students from high school Jr. ROTC units.

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There were representatives from the U.S. Park Police.

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St. Patrick’s Day is a day when New Yorkers of every background are Irish for the day. Nothing represents this better than the participation of performers from some of the city’s Hispanic cultural organizations, whose members also are known for playing bagpipes. (They also participate in the Hispanic Day Parade, a fabulous parade that I’ve described previously here.)

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Finally, one of the most powerful parts of the parade was the FDNY 343. A total of 343 New York City firefighters each carry an American flag as they march in formation, memorializing the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in New York City on 9/11.

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If you are in New York City for this or any of the other parades that New York City has to offer, I recommend that you attend – it’s an opportunity to celebrate the city’s diverse residents and traditions.

New York City’s Hispanic Parade

DSC01324If you’re ever looking for something to do in New York City, it’s often possible to find a parade. Our parades celebrate the diversity of our city. They’re great fun, as both participants and observers enjoy themselves tremendously. One of my favorite parades is the Hispanic Day Parade, which is held the Sunday before Columbus Day in October. The parade travels up Fifth Avenue between 44th and 72 Streets. From media coverage of the parade, I learned that the Hispanic Day Parade includes about 10,000 participants and attracts approximately one million spectators each year.

This parade is truly a feast for the senses–people marching in the parade wear vibrantly colored outfits and are consistently accompanied by festive music. It’s not only the parade participants who dance along; even bystanders find themselves moving to the beat. The parade represents cultural organizations in the city with ties to almost every Spanish-speaking country in the world. It reminded me of the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics, with its pageantry and diversity.

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One of the things that makes this parade so spectacular is the incorporation of the folklore and cultural traditions of each country. Countless parade participants were dressed as characters representing those stories and traditions.

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Of course, New York City parades usually include representatives of the police and fire departments, and the Hispanic Parade is no exception. (The parade also has its share of marching bands, colorful floats, and beauty queens!)

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And it wouldn’t be a parade without bagpipes–but this version has Hispanic roots.

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As a final note, the Hispanic Day Parade is a lengthy one, extending for approximately five hours. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes, but you’ll be surprised at how little you look at your watch–this is such an enjoyable parade that the time really flies!

Discovering the German-American Steuben Parade

If you’ve been in New York City for any length of time, you’ve figured out that New Yorkers throw parades for pretty much anything. They’re always a lot of fun, and you never know what you will see when you attend. Last Saturday, I decided to head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side. As I approached Fifth Avenue near the Met, I stumbled upon the annual German-American Steuben Parade.

Despite some German heritage far back in my family tree, I’ve never attended the Steuben Parade before. It was a great experience, with parade participants and bystanders equally getting into the festive spirit! As you might expect, there was a lot of lederhosen and other traditional German clothing to be seen at the parade, as well as marching bands and various German cultural institutions participating. While I watched the parade, I took numerous photographs. Here is a sampling of what the parade included:

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DSC00534The parade participants showed that age was no boundary:

DSC00530 DSC00519There were some beautiful banners and flags:

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Somehow a German-American parade needs to have some representative Volkswagen beetles–here’s one from this parade. I particularly like the vintage suitcases on top.

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Of course, every parade needs at least one fire truck, so here it is:

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Finally, in the spirit of New York City, not everything in this parade was German. What would a NYC parade be without some bagpipers?

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Every parade has a background story, and I was curious about this one. From my research, I’ve learned that the first German-American parade was held in Ridgewood, Queens, in 1956. That parade was so successful that the following year the German-American Steuben Parade was organized in Manhattan, and it’s been held each year since. Wondering about the parade’s name? Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was a Prussian general who served with George Washington during the American Revolution and helped to train American troops to fight against the British. If you are interested in learning more about the parade, including next year’s dates, you should check out the parade organization’s website.

I enjoyed the Steuben Parade so much that I’m inspired to find some other parades to watch. Maybe I will see you there!

One place to find out about parades, as well as the road closures associated with them, is on the City of New York’s event website. In addition, the New York City Department of Transportation website lists all road closures in the city each week, including weekends, and there is a specific part of the list for parades and festivals.