NYC Pride March 2017

During the month of June communities across the United States celebrate LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Pride Month. As part of the month’s celebrations, many large cities host Pride Parades and Festivals. New York City certainly hosts those kinds of festivities, but instead of a parade there is an annual Pride March.

The timing of Pride each year, as well as NYC’s decision to hold a march rather than a parade, has important historical roots. American society in the 1960s was extremely homophobic, and LGBT persons often faced harassment and persecution by police and the larger society. Early in the morning on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village. The LGBT community in New York City, like those elsewhere at that time, were accustomed to being targeted by police, but this time the NYC community decided to push back. Over the next few days, many people participated in the Stonewall Riots or Stonewall Uprising. Today, the modern LGBT rights movement traces its roots back to those critical days in June 1969. We honor that history by celebrating and marching every June.

Last Sunday was this year’s Pride March in the city. Like the protests that form its historical foundation, this year’s march was as much about protest and communicating about important issues facing the LGBT community as it was about celebration. Don’t get me wrong, there was a fun spirit surrounding the march and much entertainment, but there were also many participants communicating serious messages.

Here are some photos illustrating the range of participants and messages of this year’s Pride March – I hope you enjoy!

A Second Line Parade in NYC

Recently, New York City hosted the annual Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival, a celebration of the top high school jazz bands in the United States. The event is hosted by Jazz at Lincoln Center, a world-renown center for jazz music. Wynton Marsalis, the famous jazz musician and composer, is the Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Now, you may be thinking that a high school music competition is not for you, but here’s where you are wrong. The Essentially Ellington Competition begins with a New Orleans-style Second Line Parade, led by Wynton Marsalis himself. If you are like me, you may not know what a Second Line Parade is. I did my research before I went, and here’s the description I found on a New Orleans tourism website:

Second line parades are the descendants of the [New Orleans’] famous jazz funerals and, apart from a casket, mourners and a cemetery visit, they carry many of the same traditions with them as they march down the streets. … They range in size, level of organization and traditions, but in all cases they will include a brass band, jubilant dancing in the street and members decked out in a wardrobe of brightly colored suits, sashes, hats and bonnets, parasols and banners, melding the pomp of a courtly function and the spontaneous energy of a block party, albeit one that moves a block at a time. The parades are not tied to any particular event, holiday or commemoration; rather, they are generally held for their own sake and to let the good times roll.

How fun to experience a New Orleans-style Second Line Parade in New York City! The parade began by the Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Circle, located at the southwest corner of Central Park. It was only a short march to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s location, but it was a wonderful experience to listen and follow along. Bystanders traveled beside and behind the musicians, snapping photos along the way – I joined in the festivities. In addition to those playing musical instruments, there were students carrying posters promoting music education as well.

I invite you to follow along with the Second Line Parade through my photos below:

Can’t you just hear the jazz in the background?

NYC’s Colorful Dance Parade

New York City has parades celebrating many things, and one of the most fun is the Dance Parade. Yesterday was the 11th annual Dance Parade and Festival, which according to the organizers is held “to inspire dance through the celebration of diversity.”

The parade was a riot of colors and sounds, and the diversity of the dancers was truly magnificent. My favorite part of the parade: the look of joy on so many of the dancers’ faces. I think these photos speak for themselves!

Don’t these photos make you want to dance? What was your favorite?

NYC’s Easter Bonnet Parade 2017

I know I recently wrote about a parade (the Tartan Day Parade, which you can find here), but a few weeks ago New York City was host to one of my favorite parades: the Easter Bonnet Parade! I’m a little behind getting the blog post up about it (blame the hectic last few weeks of the semester at the law school!), but I couldn’t resist sharing my photos from this year’s parade.

New York City’s Easter Bonnet Parade is a long-standing tradition, tracing its roots back to the 1870s. There are several historic churches along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the wealthier residents of the city would dress in their best Easter finery, including elaborate hats, to go to church that morning. After church, people would parade up and down Fifth Avenue showing off their beautiful clothing as poorer residents gathered to observe. For many years, the parade was a major highlight of the spring, something that attracted huge crowds – in fact, by the mid-20th century, as many as 1 million people attended the event! Irving Berlin even wrote a song about the parade, which eventually became the title song for the 1948 movie Easter Parade, starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland.

Today, the crowds are much smaller, but it is still a great event for everyone involved. One of the reasons why the Easter Bonnet Parade is so much fun is that it is interactive. Rather than watching from the sidelines, those coming to watch the parade wander up and down the streets with the parade participants. There are no barricades (aside from those stopping automobile traffic), and really no rules. People wander up and down the street however they want, stopping to pose for and take photos of each other.

Some people stay true to the original approach, either wearing vintage-style clothing and hats or what you would normally expect to see people wear if dressing up for church. Others make their own headwear (often with corresponding costumes), ranging from the tacky to festive to high fashion. Sometimes a group of friends or family members create outfits that follow a common theme; other times you will see a person and their dog attired similarly. Everywhere you look you will see something different. The one thing that’s guaranteed: you will have fun!

Now that I’ve written at length about the parade, how about some photos? I hope you enjoy!

These first two women carried out the vintage theme in style.

These two were beautiful – although only the older one was wearing a hat.

This next one catches the spirit of the event – the woman in the middle wanted a photo with the two dressed-up men!

Here’s a family that took do-it-yourself to a new level – aren’t they great?

This man brought his own frame to the parade – and he would pose with you in it if you wanted to.

The woman on the right coordinated her outfit with her well-trained dog, and they were in high demand for photos. The stylish couple on the left were excited to have their photos taken with them.

Then there’s the wacky – but oh so much fun!

It was a very warm day, and I have to believe the guy in the bunny sweater suit was hot. But he still was enjoying himself though! The man on the right had fashioned his own hat out of an old-school Easter basket, turned upside down to become the base for a homemade birdcage.

This one is just sweet.

As you can tell from the photo below, the next one was in high demand from photographers – it almost looks like she is being chased by the paparazzi!

Yes, the man on the left has St. Patrick’s Cathedral on his head.

I’m not sure what you would call the next one, but he was sure accessorized!

The next couple was dancing in the street – one time it’s ok to stop traffic!

This guy had the right idea. The sun was bright, and a parasol would be handy.

This man was one of many people running around with large flower arrangements on their heads. He must have worked hard to make sure it matched his bright pink suit.

All I’ll say about the next one – some people really threw themselves into the spirit of things.

I’ll leave you with one last photo, this one of a young girl dressed in the more traditional Easter Parade attire.

Enjoy this so much that you want to see some pictures from last year’s parade? I wrote about it here.

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.