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West Indian Labor Day Parade 2024, New York

A colourful and vibrant celebration of the Caribbean culture

Dates: September 2, 2024

West Indian Labor Day Parade
West Indian Labor Day Parade

The most colorful event in New York City, the Labour Day Parade or West Indian Day Carnival, gathers around two million people in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on the first Monday of September. The West Indies National Parade celebrates and promotes Caribbean heritage. During the day, approximately four million spectators and carnival participants celebrate the contribution of Caribbean descendants to the culture of the United States. People dress up as politicians or celebrities or simply put on really vivid and bright costumes with feathers and crystals.

West Indian Labor Day Parade Highlights

Usually beginning at 11 pm, the parade marches along the Eastern Parkway, accompanied by the sounds of drums, whistles, reggae, and calypso music. Sometimes, participants throw powdered paint at each other. Vendors sell some great ethnic treats and beverages along the way so that both marchers and watchers can fuel up and continue to party. In the end, the costumed revelers compete for a cash prize.

The main highlights of the West Indian Day Carnival include the Brass Fest, celebrating music like Soca, Afrobeats, Reggae, and Kompa. Children’s Carnival for kids ages 1 - 17 years is another great occasion to celebrate the Caribbean heritage. The children's parade starts at St. John's Place and ends at the Brooklyn Museum. The Panorama Steel Pan Competition is another attraction of the festival. The largest steel steelband competition in North America attracts participants from all over the world.

Parade Route

Beginning at Rochester Avenue in Crown Heights, the parade moves along Eastern Parkway and culminates at the Brooklyn Museum.

Parade History

The Carnival is rooted in the 1930s initiatives by Ms. Jessie Wardell and some of her West Indian friends, who started it all by staging costume parties in big, enclosed places due to the cold weather of February. Late winter is a traditional time for the pre-Lenten festivities, held in most Christian countries around the world.

Organizers wanted to change the indoor locations to open-air spaces to keep the true carnival spirit and parade in bright costumes to the sounds of music. Thus, already in the 1940s, Ms. Wardell secured Carnival's first street permit for the parade across the streets of Harlem. From then on, the presidents of the WIADCA (West Indian American Day Carnival Association) have changed, but the outdoor parade traditions remained. West Indian Labor Day Parade shows how to celebrate freedom, defiance, and cultural heritage, without which it is very difficult to imagine the Caribbean and its people.

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Last updated:
Authors: Olena Basarab