A Guide to the West Indian Parade – NYC’s Most Colorful Event

The West Indian Day Parade is the most colorful event in NYC where around three million people come out to celebrate Caribbean culture.

Monday, September 2nd

Days to start

What is the West Indian Day Parade?

labor day parade

The West Indian Day Parade also known as the Caribbean American or Labor Day Parade is known as the is one of the biggest and most colourful celebrations to occur in New York CityThe Labor Day Parade is now in its 51st year!

Every year over three million people proceed on Crown Heights Brooklyn to celebrate West Indian Culture making it not only America’s biggest Caribbean Carnivals, but one of the biggest Caribbean carnivals in the world.

If you’re in New York during Labor Day Carnival, then head to Brooklyn to experience this incredible carnival celebration and a vibrant celebration of Caribbean Culture.

Celebrating Caribbean culture

west indian day parade

There are over 600,000 New Yorkers that are of West Indian descent. Brooklyn in particular is filled with many neighbourhoods that have large Caribbean populations. 

The West Indian Parade celebrates and showcases many different Caribbean cultures including Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Haiti, and even some mainland Caribbean countries like Belize, Guyana and Suriname.

When is the West Indian Day Parade?

labor day parade

The dates for the 2019 West Indian Day Parade will be held on Monday, September 2nd. The procession will officially begin at 11:00am.

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Where is the West Indian Day Parade?

west indian day parade

The parade marches down Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The parade will start at Schenectady Avenue and finish at Grand Army Plaza.

What is the history of the West Indian Day Parade?

labor day parade

Labor Day Carnival started by some West Indians living in Harlem back in 1930. They used to throw large costumed parties before the onset of Lent, just like the ones they used to have back in their Caribbean home countries.

Originally the carnival celebrations were meant to be pre-Lenten carnival celebrations, but as it grew and evolved into a public street parade, the carnival was instead moved to September because of how cold New York City during is during the beginning of the year.

The first carnival street parade occurred on 1st September 1947 and was originally held in Harlem because of the large West Indian community there. The parade then moved to Crown Heights Brooklyn after the permit for the Harlem Parade was revoked.

How do they celebrate the West Indian Day Parade?

west indian day parade

The Labor Day Parade is a huge vibrant colourful parade that lasts for about seven hours. The parade features thousands of amazing singers, dancers and musicians wearing extravagant costumes and feathered head pieces. It also has lots of amazing floats, marching bands and steel-pan bands.

There is a costume competition that you can compete in to win a big cash prize that is rewarded after the parade It isn’t just the people participating in the parade who wear amazing costumes but all the people attending the parade who dress up in amazing costumes.

Food vendors line the streets selling Caribbean food and drinks so that the revellers can fuel up and keep partying. Everywhere you look you can see traditional mas’ bands or steel drum musicians playing Caribbean music while people dance, drink, socialise and have the absolute time of their lives.

What is J’Ouvert?

labor day parade

There are many pre and after parties that occur around New York City before and after the West Indian Parade but one of the larger and more famous celebrations is called J’ouvert. In French J’ouvert means ‘day break’ and is a sunrise parade that takes place in the early morning before the West Indian Parade. The parade starts at 6am which is right before sunrise.

J’Ouvert celebrations are about celebrating love and about the community coming together to appreciate West Indian culture.  The celebration marks the start of carnival and is something that is observed in many cultures throughout the Caribbean. J’ouvert is not your normal carnival parade but is seen as a declaration of cultural identity for the many of the Caribbean residents. 

How to get to the West Indian Day Parade?

labor day parade

As Labor Day is a public holiday trains and buses are all operating on a holiday schedule, but trains will still be your best chance of arriving in the carnival. Of course, there are a lot of people heading to the parade, so it can be slow getting to the parade.

Accommodation for West Indian Day Parade

New York is filled with lots of accommodation options that cater for everyone’s tastes and budge. If you want to stay closer to the parade then your best bet is to book accommodation in Brooklyn. But New York has a well-connected subway system so it is easy to get around the city.

Check out some accommodation deals here.

For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.

Before you go!
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