Parade officials discuss the changes with members of the NYPD.
The Richmond Hill community will be celebrating the annual Phagwah Parade this year, but it might be a little later than expected.
While the spring festival, also known as Holi, will be observed on March 4, the Organizing Committee of Phagwah Parade 2018 announced that the parade will take place on Saturday, April 14.
Speaking at Villa Russo Catering Hall in Richmond Hill on Monday, the committee members explained that while they tend to schedule the festival as closely to the observed day as possible, the cold weather has proven difficult over recent years.
“In years past, cold weather on parade day would cause much discomfort to the participants, who would either stay away or leave the event much earlier than they would have liked,” said Naidoo Veerapen, co-chair of the Phagwah Parade and member of the Federation of Hindu Mandirs. “The extremely cold weather conditions during the 2017 parade forcibly brought the issue to the fore again.”
Each year, thousands of people take part in the Phagwah Parade. But last year’s freezing temperature posed a risk to attendees, those on the floats, and artists performing at the post-parade concert in Phil Rizzuto Park.
Veerapen explained that to put on the parade, which is one of the city’s biggest street events, takes a lot of planning and money. Furthermore, the event is attended by people who travel from other areas with a rich community of West Indians, such as Toronto or Florida.
In order to have a festival that everyone can enjoy, the committee reached out to the various organizations who put on the event for their approval on the delay.
“It is well known that Richmond Hill is home to the largest Indo-Caribbean community in the United States, and we are proud to be able to contribute to the cultural diversity of the greatest city in the world by organizing and implementing a public celebratory event like this parade,” Veerapan said.
“The Phagwah Parade has acquired its own identity and is the main cultural expression of our people in New York City,” he added. “We should not allow poor scheduling to stifle its important contribution to the city’s cultural landscape.”
The parade, now in its 30th year, will feature 30 floats and a cultural show. Organizers hope that Mayor Bill de Blasio can attend the festival this year.
Councilman Eric Ulrich said the event is a joyous reflection of the West Indian heritage.
“This is an event that I certainly look forward to, I’ve only missed one when I was deathly ill and couldn’t make it, but it’s a very inclusive, happy celebration of West Indian culture,” Ulrich said. “Everyone’s working well together, and I think they are going to put together the best parade that many people have ever seen.”
One of the most colorful events in the city, the Phagwah Parade will feature a range of bright cultural outfits and costumes representing the Hindu religion and Indo-Caribbean culture. The post-parade show at Phil Rizzuto Park will feature colored powder seen both in the air and on people.
Captain Brian Bohannon of the 106th Precinct said people should not be encouraged to throw the powder as the floats are descending down Liberty Avenue, but “it’s quite alright” if individuals put powder on themselves once they are in the park.
The 102nd Precinct commanding officer, Captain Courtney Nilan, who worked at the parade in the past, added that the police are there to help out, “not there for enforcement but rather to keep the peace and make sure everyone has a good time and is safe.”
The parade route will be the same as it was last year, with the floats stepping off at noon from 133rd Street and Liberty Avenue. It will continue to Phil Rizzuto Park, where the cultural show will take place.