Vast crowds of people proudly waved flags of their native countries as they lined up along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn to celebrate the West Indian American Day Parade on Monday.
Spectators came from all over the nation to witness the 48th year of the largest Caribbean culture celebration in the nation.
“We have not been here in six years and we just decided to bring our kids for the first time to experience it,” said Raquel Walker, 48, a D.C. resident originally from the Dominican Republic. “I love the costumes, the feathers, the camaraderie of the people from the Caribbean and our communities.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and city’s first lady Chirlane McCray – who is of Caribbean descent – made their way down the parade route while greeting spectators and waving several flags.
Governor Andrew Cuomo was also present despite the tragedy that fell on his administration earlier that day.
One of Cuomo’s aides, Carey Gabay, 43, was shot in the head by a stray bullet while attending a pre-parade party in Crown Heights around 3:40 a.m., according to police. He was taken to King County Hospital Center where he was listed in critical condition.
The parade went on as planned and marked the first time both the mayor and governor attended the same event since July, but they avoided crossing paths.
Parade goers, oblivious to the political feud, simply enjoyed the festivities while dancing and shouting out when they spotted their fellow countrymen.
“The vibe is good and it gives me a chance to meet up with long time friends,” said Charmaine Mattadeen, 49, from Jamaica residing in Queens. “I come to it every year and I celebrate my independence.”
The parade began after 11 a.m. and it trickled slowly in the direction of Grand Army Plaza. Police presence was spotted throughout the route.
Elaborate floats and costumed dancers made their way down the street to the sound of calypso, soca and reggae.
Tents selling oxtails, fried fish, sorrel juice and other Caribbean staples were lined up along the sidewalks.
“I heard it was really cool so I decided to come today,” said Meir Briskman, 32, from Israel. “I’m still trying to figure out what it’s about, but I am having fun.”