The nation’s largest one-day street party is set to kick off
on Labor Day as an anticipated crowd of more than 3 million people
jam Eastern Parkway for the 34th Annual West Indian American
Day Carnival and Parade.
Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and senators Hilary Clinton and Charles Schumer are scheduled to march in parts of the parade, which will no doubt be rife with candidates for public office as well.
A number of events, sponsored by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) will be held leading up to the Sept. 3 parade, including concerts, costume contests, a children’s parade and a steel drum contest called Panorama. However, due to a dispute over prize money, a number of steel drum bands, also known as "pan" bands, split from WIADCA and are holding a separate event, also called Panorama, organized by the United States Steelband Association (USSA).
The WIADCA Panorama will take place Saturday, Sept. 1, at 8 pm, in the parking lot of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. (Gates open at 7 pm.) WIADCA spokesperson Jean Alexander said that there were eight bands signed and admitted that the 34-year-old contest faced new competition from USSA.
"I understand that they have more bands than we do," Alexander said. "Of course there will be a reduction in [WIADCA] crowds, there will be a reduction in bands, there will be a reduction in pan supporters, but it’s not going to change that much."
The USSA competition will take place on the same day at the Thomas Jefferson High School athletic field at Flatlands and Shepherd avenues in East New York. (The gates open at 6 pm, and the competition starts at 8 pm.)
"There is only one Panorama, and that’s our Panorama," said Brian Figeroux, publisher of the bi-monthly Immigrant’s Journal newspaper, which is sponsoring the USSA competition. "All the steel bands that used to perform at the Brooklyn Museum are with the USSA."
Thirteen bands will perform at the USSA Panorama including, in order of appearance, Invasion Ambassadors, Dem Stars, Despers USA, Harlem All Stars, Pan Tonic, Sesame Flyers Steel Orchestra, Caribbean Youth Panoramics, New York Nutones and Tasso USA, according to Figeroux.
All the pre-parade events sponsored by WIADCA take place at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, beginning Thursday, Aug. 30 with the "Mas Mas and More Mas" masquerade competition.
On Friday, Aug. 31, WIADCA hosts a "Stay in School/Stay Off Drugs" concert from 1 pm to 4 pm. A "Brass Festival" featuring soca and calypso bands from the Caribbean will start at 8 pm. The bands scheduled to perform are X-Tatik, Square One & Alison Hinds, Charlie Roots & David Rudder, Bunji Garlin and Blue Ventura with Sanell Dempster and Ronnie McIntosh.
In addition to the steel band competitions, there will be a Children’s Carnival Parade on Saturday, Sept. 1. The parade begins at 10 am from St. John’s Place and Kingston Avenue, proceeds to St. Marks Place, makes a left onto Franklin Avenue, proceeds left (south) to President Street and ends at the Brooklyn Museum of Art where the children will perform on stage until late afternoon.
On Sunday, Sept. 2 at 8 pm, WIADCA will present The Dimanche Gras Show.
"That name comes from the Trinidad carnival," said Alexander. "It is a night when we bring together all the calypso kings and queens. The winners of all the costume competitions and the winners of the panorama all come back for a grand finale." A number of bands from the Caribbean are also scheduled to perform, including Shadow, Explainer, Pink Panther, Mighty Sparrow, Sugar Aloes, Red Plastic Bag, Ronnie McIntosh, David Rudder & Charlie Roots and pianist Earl Brooks. The host for the evening is MC Wassy.
An event not sponsored by WIADCA, but nevertheless a 17-year tradition, the J’ouvert (French for "day opens"), begins at around 2 am on Labor Day. Thousands of revelers, who can’t wait for the real parade to start, take to the streets around Grand Army Plaza in wild costumes.
Steel bands compete with a ballad or piece of classical music at Empire Boulevard and Washington Avenue; J’ouvert mas (costume) bands compete at Empire Boulevard and Rogers Avenue; and steel bands engage in a calypso competition at Nostrand Avenue and Rutland Road. J’ouvert carries on until about 8 am.
The Labor Day parade steps off at 11 am on Sept. 3, from the corner of Utica Avenue and Eastern Parkway and continues on Eastern Parkway to Grand Army Plaza. A reviewing stand in front of the Brooklyn Museum will offer free live entertainment from 10 am to 4 pm. The grand marshals for the parade, which will include 60 colorful floats, will be Antonia Yuille-Willams of Con Edison, Charles Ancrum of Heineken, Pierre Sutton of Inner City Broadcasting, and Trinidadian costume designer Peter Minshall.
Asked whether she expected the numerous candidates for city offices to attend the parade, Alexander said she didn’t know, but they were welcome, adding: "I hope they put on their dancing shoes and loosen up a little."
The West Indian Labor Day Carnival and Parade events take place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3.
The WIADCA pre-Labor Day Carnival shows take place on the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum of Art (Washington Avenue at Eastern Parkway). Doors open at 7 pm; shows begin at 8 pm.
On Thurs., Aug. 30, "Live Calypso & Mas and More Mas" ($15).
On Fri., Aug. 31, the "The Brass Festival" ($25) and, from 1 to 4 pm, a "Stay in School/ Stay off Drugs" concert ($2).
On Sat., Sept. 1 at 8 pm, the WIADCA "Steelband Panorama Competition" ($20). At 10 am, the Children’s Carnival Parade will step off at St. Johns Place and Kingston Avenue (Free).
On Sun., Sept. 2 at 8 pm, "The Dimanche Gras Show" ($25).
Concert tickets for all WIADCA shows are available at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and at WIADCA (1028 St. John’s Place). All children’s shows are free to youth of all ages, however, there is a suggested donation of $2 for adults.
On Labor Day, Sept. 3, the parade will start at 11 am at Utica Avenue and Eastern Parkway and will continue on Eastern Parkway to Grand Army Plaza. For information about shows at the Museum, call (718) 625-1515 or (718) 773-4052.
Also on Sept. 1, the USSA Steel band competition will take place at the Thomas Jefferson HS athletic field at Flatlands Avenue and Shepherd Avenue. Gates open at 6 pm, and the competition starts at 8 pm. Tickets: $20. For more information, call (718) 243-9431.