NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Brooklyn neighborhood came alive today with a festive celebration of Caribbean culture.

The rain certainly didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.

“It feels great to be here. I’m excited to be in the parade for the Caribbean,” said 9-year-old Juda-Lea Bartlett of Newport News, Virginia. For her, Monday’s West Indian American Day Parade was her first-ever trip to the big city.

“It’s actually beautiful. Like at night, it lights up,” she said.

Eastern Parkway lit up Monday well before nightfall with bright ensembles as far as the eye could see. Feathers, wings, masks and headresses were on full display as an estimated two million people came out to celebrate the many countries of the Caribbean.

The festivities kicked off around 6 a.m. with the annual J’Ouvert festival.

Travis Roberts leads CASYM, a steel pan orchestras set to compete. The native of Trinidad and Tobago said he spent a lot of time preparing for the weekend.

“I just want to share this instrument with everybody, because it’s a beautiful instrument. When you play it, it makes you feel happy, especially me,” he told CBS2.

In the Caribbean, J’Ouvert signifies the beginning of Carnival and usually coincides with Lent in the winter. But here, it’s a Labor Day tradition that, to many, is a form of self-expression, showcasing pride in their culture.

At the core of the tradition is what’s known as “jab jab,” revelers covered in motor oil, some dancing with horns on their heads.

Roy Pierre creates costumes – sometimes for as many as 200 people – each year with a new theme. This year, it’s Africa.

“Some people have a negative spin on J’Ouvert, but… this is really theater in the streets,” he said.

Participants started arriving before sunrise for the celebration along Flatbush Avenue.

“It’s something we have so much fun doing,” said one woman.

“We’ve been doing it since we were kids with out parents,” another added. “It’s just a tradition that we keep going.”

“We’ve been doing this for about 16 years now, so it’s nothing new for us. This is what we do,” Amanda Charles added. “We like to dance until the sun comes out and enjoy ourselves.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams was among those in the crowd.

“So far so good. Everybody come out, enjoy yourselves,” Williams said. “It’s a day of celebrating Caribbean culture.”

MORE: NYPD Unveils J’Ouvert Festival Security Measures

Last year was a success, but in the past, the celebration has been marked by violence. Participants say it takes away from the true meaning of the day.

“This festival is all about enjoying yourself, having fun, coming out partying and just having a good time. This is all we are about. We are not about violence or nothing like that. It’s all about having fun,” said Roberts.

This year, revelers had to enter through 13 designated checkpoints.

“This is the largest detail that we put out all year, but we are counting on everyone at J’Ouvert to make this event as safe as possible,” said NYPD Chief of Dept. Terence Monahan.

More than 300 light towers illuminated the crowds, and thousands of officers were on hand to ensure their safety.

“I’m happy to have them. It’s more safe,” participant Lexy Allen said.

Still, the dance moves are just as passionate, the jerk chicken is grilled to perfection, and the music could be heard from blocks away, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported.

She asked the participants how they keep their stamina, and they said they rest up, wear sneakers and the music and adrenaline do the rest.

Photo via NYPD

J’Ouvert took place from 6 to 11 a.m. The West Indian American Day Parade officially stepped off at noon down Eastern Parkway and ends at Grand Army Plaza.

The traditional calypso music was so loud it shook the floats as they made their way down the 2-mile route.

“We’re Caribbean people. We love to dance. We’re full of joy,” said one reveler.

The route was flooded by several downpours throughout the day. At just the right time, rain stopped and the sky opened up for the most colorful part of the  parade, CBS2’s Tara Jakeway reported.

Street Closures:

West Indian American Day Parade and Festival

Grand Army Plaza (Entire Circle)
Buffalo Avenue between Eastern Parkway and East New York Avenue
Rochester Avenue between East New York Avenue and Sterling Place
Ralph Avenue between Eastern Parkway and East New York Avenue
East New York Avenue between Howard Avenue and Utica Avenue
Eastern Parkway between Howard Avenue and Grand Army Plaza
Washington Avenue between Sterling Place and Lincoln Road
Flatbush Avenue between Grand Army Plaza and Caton Avenue
Ocean Avenue between Empire Boulevard and Parkside Avenue
Butler Place between Grand Army Plaza and Sterling Place
St. John’s Place between Underhill Avenue and Grand Army Plaza
Rockaway Parkway between East New York Avenue and Rutland Road
Parkside Avenue between Park Circle and Flatbush Avenue
Bedford Avenue between Eastern Parkway and Empire Boulevard
Empire Boulevard between Flatbush Avenue and Nostrand Avenue
Nostrand Avenue between Empire Boulevard and Linden Boulevard
Lincoln Place between Eastern Parkway and East New York Avenue
West Indian American Day Junior Carnival

J’Ouvert Events

Grand Army Plaza (Entire Circle)
Buffalo Avenue between Eastern Parkway and East New York Avenue
Rochester Avenue between East New York Avenue and Sterling Place
Ralph Avenue between Eastern Parkway and East New York Avenue
East New York Avenue between Howard Avenue and Utica Avenue
Eastern Parkway between Howard Avenue and Grand Army Plaza
Washington Avenue between Sterling Place and Lincoln Road
Flatbush Avenue between Grand Army Plaza and Caton Avenue
Ocean Avenue between Empire Boulevard and Parkside Avenue
Butler Place between Grand Army Plaza and Sterling Place
St. John’s Place between Underhill Avenue and Grand Army Plaza
Rockaway Parkway between East New York Avenue and Rutland Road
Parkside Avenue between Park Circle and Flatbush Avenue
Bedford Avenue between Eastern Parkway and Empire Boulevard
Empire Boulevard between Flatbush Avenue and Nostrand Avenue
Nostrand Avenue between Empire Boulevard and Linden Boulevard
Lincoln Place between Eastern Parkway and East New York Avenue

For more information about the festivities, click here.

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