WIADCA cancels 2020 carnival parade amid COVID-19 pandemic

WIADCA Board of Directors at launch of Caribbean Carnival 2019.
Photo by Nelson A. King

The Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) announced on Monday that it was cancelling this year’s massive carnival parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“In lieu of carnival parade, we will be holding solidarity march to acknowledge the barriers that be taken down and the distance we must still travel,” said WIADCA in a statement. “We do not want the carnival to be a memory.

“Our plans are to do whatever we can —in the virtual world of COVID-19 communications — to sustain us all until we can again be physically together,” it added.

The cancellation comes after Mayor Bill DeBlasio said on Thursday that large events requiring a city events permit will be canceled through Sept. 30, “as the city works to prioritize open spaces for public use.”

The mayor said the city will not issue a permit for any event in a location that interferes with the Open Streets or Open Restaurants program.

He said permits will also be denied for all events larger than one block, stage/video events that require amplification, street fairs and events in parks that may “unreasonably diminish public use.”

De Blasio said the city will refund or defer fees paid in connection with a denied permit.

“As New York has begun its reopening process, accessible open spaces are more important than ever,” he said. “While it pains me to call off some of the city’s beloved events, our focus now must be the prioritization of city space for public use and the continuation of social distancing.”

The mayor, however, said that events that do not conflict with Open Streets or Open Restaurant areas and are for locations one city block or smaller can still apply for a permit.

The Mayor’s Executive Order will require all permit applicants to outline their plan to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at the event site and clean the event space both during and after the event.

“Applicants will be expected to address these concerns without utilizing city services, personnel and resources,” de Blasio said. “Demonstrations, religious events and press conferences will be exempt from the Executive Order and may receive permits.”

He said the Executive Order will help ensure social distancing, allow for greater public use of open space, address traffic flow concerns and allocate city resources efficiently.”

WIADCA, however, said the carnival tradition will be uninterrupted, as it instead goes virtual for 2020.

“We inaugurate our 54th year using technology,” the statement said. “We refuse to give in. COVID-19 will not stop us. The show must go on!”

WIADCA said its on-line offerings will highlight art, music performances, fitness, health and culinary masters.

In addition, it said it will pay special tribute to the youth and seniors, and that a compendium of film footage taken of previous carnivals is being created as well.

“Our program will highlight activities COVID-19 cannot and will not be allowed to stop,” WIADCA stressed. “We are addressing and promoting enhanced mental health and wellness specialization, community awareness and camaraderie.

“We know that our young people will protect and transmit our cultures to future generations,” it added. “We will be producing a virtual youth festival.”