Thousands of masqueraders and revelers converged on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway on Labor Day, Monday, as the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade returned after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Millions more watched the pageantry from ubiquitous police barricades, as humongous speakers mounted atop flatbed trucks blasted soca, reggae, kompa, zouk and other Caribbean music on a picture-perfect day.
Though rain was predicted, the weather held steady, with warm temperatures throughout the 4 ½ mile-long parade, which started at Buffalo Avenue and Eastern Parkway, and ended at Grand Army Plaza, near Flatbush Avenue.
Kelsta James’ Baltimore, MD-based Islands Girls teamed up with Brooklyn’s Branches and Associates for the Labor Day production.
“We drove from Baltimore,” said Kelsta, flanked by her younger sister, Kacie. “We had to do everything together.”
The James, whose mother hails from Trinidad and Tobago and father from Antigua and Barbuda, brought along African American Alexis Arrington from Washington, D.C.
“We did this years ago,” said Kacie. “We feel new, fresh. We haven’t had this for three years.”
Arrington said she felt “good, beautiful, comfortable and happy to be here.”
Nearby, Haitian Tameka A and African American Melody, who only wanted to be identified by their first names, said they were invited by Island Girls to play with Branches and Associates.
“I feel great,” Melody said. “It’s a good experience. I like to see all the colors of the flags.”
“Coming together is great,” intoned Tameka A. “It’s the love.”
Kayla Gibbs and Kaywana Brown portrayed “Trinidad” in Antoine International.
“It’s my first time, and I’m excited,” Gibbs said.
Brown said she was “happy and excited to be back on the Parkway (Eastern Parkway) after two years.”
Trinidadian Stacey Brown said she has been playing, for 21 years, with Sesame Flyers, the former perennial band winners.
“I feel great,” she said. “I’m very happy that the Parkway is open.”
Then, a DJ on a Sesame Flyers float shouted: “Good morning. It’s three years we waited for this!”
Trinidadian Rhea Smith played “Fao” with Sesame Flyers.
“This is great,” said the board member of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), organizer of the five-day carnival that began on Thursday. “This is really a warm-up for 2023. I’ve having fun, celebrating responsibly.
“We’re thankful for our cultural groups, elected officials and media for always supporting us,” she added. “We’ve been waiting almost three years for this.”
Another Trinidadian, Enista Jackson, and her Barbadian hair stylist, Sean Arthur, played “Ying Yang” with Sesame Flyers.
“After two years, this is great,” said Jackson, disclosing that Arthur was her “best friend in the world.”
“I miss this,” she added about the parade. “Trinidadians are the best (laughing, recognizing that other Caribbean nationals may dispute this claim).”
In portraying “Jumbie” in ENJ Productions, Ronald Halgard blurted out: “It’s beautiful. I’ve been doing this for many years.”
After playing mas earlier in J’Ouvert, Vincentian Gaylene Durrant participated in the parade.
“Every year, I do both,” she said. “It’s a good experience. I’ve been doing them for the past 10 years, except for two years because of the pandemic.”
Playing in Mango Tree Productions, Rachel Medarol, who claims Trinidadian and Haitian heritage, said she has been playing mas since it was organized in Harlem.
“I love this,” she said. “I love how everyone comes out and show love, and represent the culture.”
Guyanese Tangerine Clarke, a Caribbean Life freelancer, played in the “Red Section” with Mango Tree Productions.
“This is my inaugural year playing on Eastern Parkway,” she said. “I decided I’ll be making history, because this is a return after two years.”
Vincentian Francis DeSilva played D’Midas International New York, portraying “Pitch Lake on Fire,” reminiscent of last year’s volcanic eruptions in his native land.
“It’s good!” he exclaimed.
Nearby, Glen Fahie Turnbull, co-band leader of D’Midas International New York, carried a huge costume called “The Magnificent”.
“It’s nice,” said the Tortola, British Virgin Islands native. “I’m posing for pictures today.”
As a huge Haitian band played kompa and zouk music, Youden Charles portrayed a costume from Tonymix.
“This is good,” she said. “This is my first time. Enjoying myself!”
Several cultural groups also participated in Monday’s carnival, including Creole Jam, which featured Haitian culture; the Jamaican-owned Braata Productions (Jonkanoo); Garifuna Spiritual Enrichment Society; and Day of Independence Committee of Panamanians in NY, Inc.
The parade was the culmination of five days of spectacular carnival, which began on Thursday with “Vibes w/Voicey: The Concert Tour.”
The extravaganza also featured on Friday “Island 2 Island,” an explosion of live performances from favorite soca artists and DJs backed by a live band; and, on Saturday, Junior Carnival Parade, International Youth Fest and Pan in ‘A’ Minor “With a Minor Change” – “musical feast of rhythmic melodies over the sweet sounds of steel, concert style, with steel bands led by some of New York’s renowned pan virtuosos,” according to WIADCA.
On Sunday, WIADCA, which is celebrating 55 years of carnival, featured “Paintopia” and “Amnesia Day Party,” highlighting “an all-DJ cast, good food, plenty vibes.”