Caribbean Culture Celebrated As West Indian Parade Marches Through Crown Heights

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A sea of color and sounds were on display in Brooklyn on Monday as the annual West Indian American Day Parade was in full swing.

Officials expected more than 1.5 million people to attend the parade, which began at 11 a.m. along Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights.

MORE: Tightened Security For J’Ouvert Festival, West Indian Day Parade In Brooklyn

Walking down Eastern Parkway, it almost felt like you were on a Caribbean island, CBS2’s Reena Roy reported.

West Indian Day Parade 2017

Participants at the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn on Sept. 4, 2017. (credit: CBS2)

“Everyone’s excited,” said paradegoer Jamilla Smith. “Everyone’s in a happy mood. Everyone is just happy to be here.”

“It feels like being back home,” said Natasha Rudder. “It feels like one of those holidays that we get all excited about.”

The rainbow of colors, the bumping beats of soca and calypso music captured the essence of the Caribbean culture.

“Everyone’s having fun, eating, laughing, dancing — you know festivities,” said Gabrielle Ramsay.

“The dancing is my favorite — and the food,” Imani Woods said.

“I just wanted to come out and live my culture,” Smith said. “I’m Jamaican, so I wanted to do that.”

That’s true no matter which island people were representing.

“I’m Guyanese, Trini, Panamanian, Puerto Rican and Jamaican,” said Woods.

Everyone was in the heart of Brooklyn to celebrate their heritage together.

“Being away from your country, it’s good to kind of see different aspects of different cultures, different parts of the Caribbean,” Smith said. “It’s always good to come together and really just have a happy time.”

Flags from different islands decorated Eastern Parkway.

“All the different countries, they get to get together, and we get to eat the different food and celebrate together,” said Venecia Little.

The parade is an annual Labor Day celebration in New York that dates back to the 1940s, one that people look forward to all year, every year.

“Since I’m here in this country, I’m always coming to it,” Rudder said. “So it’s over 20 years.”

With a strong tradition comes dedication. The detailed costumes, with all kinds of fabrics beads and sequins, are also filled with love and labor.

Pat Nurse said it took a month to make her costume.

“To me, it’s like if you love something, you don’t even feel it being hard,” she said.

And to keep up with all the dancing, there was, of course, some authentic grub. For example, one Jamaican stand was cooking up dishes such as curry goat and chicken the traditional way — on rims from a car tire.

“Today we have plantains ackee and soft, which is Jamaica’s national dish,” Michelle Gunter said.

“We use car rims for the cold stove, so we are using the tradition of cold stove,” she added. “It gives us special flavor.”

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