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The 43rd Annual West Indian Carnival Festival in Brooklyn

The 43rd Annual West Indian Carnival Festival in Brooklyn

In the immortal words of The Mighty Sparrow: “Let me tell you something about Labor Day in Brooklyn.”

Yes, since 1967, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) has been holding Labor Day parades in New York City. But, believe it or not, the Carnival heritage of the Big Apple goes back even further.

In fact a Miss Jessie Waddle of Trinidad and some of her West Indian friends tried to kick things off all the way back in 1920’s Harlem. Being purists, they celebrated in February, the appropriate pre-Lenten time for jumpin’ up in Trinidad and countries around the world. Unfortunately, New York’s February climate wasn’t terribly hospitable to their skimpy costumes. They tried to fête it up indoors, but we all know a building doesn’t exist capable of containing a true carnival, so it didn’t last.

Jessie returned in the 1940’s with the first known West Indian street carnival in New York, but again, it didn’t quite stick. It took another Trinidadian, Rufus Goring, to really get the ball rolling in the 60’s. As a result of his efforts, Carlos Lezama (who later would become president of WIADCA) was able to really establish the Brooklyn carnival as we know it in 1967… And the rest, as they say, is history.

A history full of the top calypsonians, soca music, reggae, West Indian food, masqueraders, jumpin’ up, locals and those from the four corners of the globe. This year, the crowd was estimated at over 3 million strong making it New York City’s biggest cultural festival, dwarfing St. Patrick’s Day and all others.

Naturally, I was right in the middle of it all! Here are some shots of the festivities in case you missed it. Click the thumbnails to enlarge.


For hundreds more photos, visit the Flickr pool. See you next year!

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