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Immigrant News Queens

An immigrant’s point of view

Thousands at Phagwah Parade

Posted by admin On March - 7 - 2010  Print  Email  

There is nothing more entertaining than a street parade. And nothing more intriguing than the people in the parade. Yesterday, the annual Phagwah parade in Queens, New York,  delivered both. It was the 21st such parade put on by immigrants from the Caribbean islands to signal the arrival of Spring.

This group of Trinis came with their own musical instruments to participate in the Phagwah celebrations in Queens yesterday.

The flag woman leading the tassa drummers, twirling a Trinidad and Tobago (Trini) flag and chipping to the rhythm, had not a speck of powder or abeer on her. Behind them a truck-towed float with Trini, Guyanese and American flags framed by an arch of red, white, green and orange balloons. Holi Greetings To All painted at the bottom. At the back,  Happy Holi To All. On top, a music set up and a group of sponsors and their relatives. Behind a group from the Nirvana Humanitarian Foundation.

The truck-towed float at the Phagwah parade.

But most intriguing of all was a group of musicians that came with their own natural instruments. In true Trini style they came to make music and have fun. One scratching a coin on a hand made grater, like my deceased grandmother used to make by painstakingly driving a nail into a sheet of galvanise with a hammer countless times until she had her grater. Then there were the two with red coca cola cases suspended from strings around their necks, empty bottles inside, beating out a tinkly tune. And there was the guy with the barrel, supposedly the base man, which he carried on a strap around his shoulder. A Trini posse indeed, playing their own music on their own instruments, and drawing attention too.

This group was smeared with powder while walking along the street.

The Phagwah players gathered at noon at Liberty Avenue and 133rd Street and took off along a designated route to Smokey Park for a day of revelry, abeer, coloured powder, music and dance.

Displaying flags and bandannas from their countries the revelers made their way through the streets in a kaleidoscope of colours, accompanied by tassa drumming and music to the park. They carried bags of coloured power and containers of liquid abeer. As they progressed they left their distinct markings behind.

Tassa drummers at the parade.

The coloured power was every where. On the pavement and on the streets. On faces, hair and clothing. Red. Green. Yellow. Purple. White. Blue. Pink. Confetti too.

The weather was kind too, near 50 degrees.  And the players sapped up the warm sunny day with eagerness. It was a perfect day for playing Phagwah or Holi, as it is commonly called in India. A lovely spring day for a spring festival.

Enjoying Phagwah

It’s as if Spring had skipped ahead of time and arrived in Queens, New York, a week early.  But that was not so, it was the colourful abeer and powder swirling in the air, staining faces and clothes which brightened up the day.

The police force was out too, to ensure that the rules of the parade were not broken and to keep a watchful eye on the revelers. The day however, was incident free.

Heading to Smokey Park for Phagwah.

Within minutes of the parade’s passing, the sanitation truck zipped up and down the streets clearing away the evidence. The roads were opened and ten minutes later, except for the coloured powder marking the pavement along the route, no one could tell that thousands of merrymakers had passed that way minutes before. And so ends Phagwah 2010 in New York.

Photos by Edison Herrera.

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Hi. My name is Susan Gosine-Herrera. I live in Queens, New York. This news blog is my way of highlighting all the interesting things, people and events I come across in this part of New York. If you have an interesting immigrant story or know of one or of an interesting immigrant, I will be happy to feature that story in these pages. Just send an email and I will be in touch. Meanwhile, live like a tourist, enjoy all you can, before you move on.

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