The 30th edition of the annual Phagwah Parade was held last Saturday April 14 on Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill (known as Little Guyana), Queens NY. Phagwah is known as the festival of colors and it is a national festival in several countries. The parade was planned and organized by representatives of several mandirs and organizations – some affiliated with the Federation of Hindu Mandirs – and the Arya Spiritual Center.
The parade was held late this year. Phagwah, or Holi, was observed last March 2. But a permit to host the event was difficult because the police force was tied up with other activities in the city. In addition, because it was a cold time of the year, (happened to have snowed that day), community leaders agreed to hold the parade on April 14. Turn out tend to be small when Holi falls in February or early March. Holi fell during a very cold period. So organizers agreed to delay the celebration although many felt it does not have the same effect as celebrating it on the day of the public holiday. This year, April 14 temperature turned out to be very warm (almost 80 degrees) that day. In preceding years, the Phagwah Parade was held on the Sunday after the holiday. Holi is a national holiday in India and Guyana. Attendance was much smaller this year than in preceding years.
The parade in the past was held on a Sunday. But this year because of festivals of other communities that needed a police presence, permit was granted for a Saturday.
The parade started out at noon at the Dr. Cheddi Jagan Square (133rd Street) making its way on Liberty Avenue to 125 Street turning right to get the Phil Rizzuto Oval (Smokey Park) at 95th Avenue – just under a mile. There were a dozen colorful floats each with dancers and singers.
At the culmination of the parade, there was a cultural variety program and speeches by organizers and leaders of participating organization. There were some 25 organizations taking part in this year’s edition of the parade. The park was nearly packed to capacity with the revelers. But the crowd was much smaller than in previous years. Attendees were entertained with singing and dancing with a Holi theme.
The Phagwah Parade is the main cultural expression of Indo-Caribbean people in New York City. Although primarily, a Hindu function, non-Hindus participate in the celebration. Revelers of all nationalities and ethnicities doused each other with abeer, abrack, and powder along the parade route and in the park. Hot beverages and snacks were served at the park.
Organizers thanked the sponsors and attendees for gracing the parade.