Countdown to Rockaway’s 1st Caribbean Carnival Begins!

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If you were passing through Beach 20th in Far Rockaway last Saturday, June 17, your curiosity may have been aroused by a large crowd of folks congregated in the Plaza, some adorned with vibrantly colorful, feathered headpieces, and a man on mile-high stilts, (referred to as a moko jumbie), effortlessly gyrating to soca (Caribbean) music.

All the fanfare was organized as a backdrop to Senator James Sanders’ press conference officially announcing the first-ever Caribbean Carnival coming to Rockaway on Saturday, August 19.

Sanders and his team collaborated with the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), Rockaway Development Revitalization Corporation (RDRC), NYC Parks Department and NYPD to bring the event to Rockaway.

The Senator, holding a scorpion king-style headpiece in his hand, first led the crowd in a mini-parade down Beach 20th, and gave a sneak preview to the festivities to come at the Plaza.

“Caribbean people work hard and also play mas (Carnival) hard, and on August 19, we are going to celebrate their culture and contribution to the Rockaway community. Instead of building walls, we are building bridges for folks across the peninsula to learn and celebrate their Caribbean neighbors.” Sanders said.

Next up was RDRC President and CEO, Kevin W. Alexander. “RDRC is looking forward to connecting this great cultural event launching from the Beach 20th Plaza to the beach and boardwalk. This first annual Caribbean Carnival will be the centerpiece of summertime at the Plaza, which was made possible by our Senator. We will be working with local merchants to participate and vend their goods to the thousands of people expected to come to the Carnival in downtown Far Rockaway,” Alexander said.

Sanders then introduced Jean P. Alexander, WIADCA board secretary and marketing and media director. “This year marks the 50th anniversary of our Caribbean Carnival in Brooklyn on Labor Day. I have seen our Carnival grow from a couple thousand people to two million, the largest Carnival  in the U.S. and Canada. We have a very strong relationship with the NYPD, and their partnership with WIADCA has made our event successful, safe and fun.” Alexander said.

When Sanders was posed the question about safety concerns for spectators and paraders in the Carnival, especially in light of negative reports of shootings and other crime in the massive Brooklyn Carnival, he responded, “We are doing this, but not in a vacuum. My team and I are working closely with the WIADCA to make sure we do everything right to avoid problems. Also we have the local precinct on board to implement all safety measures to make this a safe, family-friendly event, where safety will be a priority.”

The 101st Precinct’s new commanding officer, Captain J. Tavalaro, reiterated, “Our Precinct will have everything in place to make this event both safe and fun. We are serious about safety and will be on duty to ensure that folks have fun, but in a safe manner.”

The Senator then introduced Mike Scala, first vice president of the Queens Public Transit Committee, a democrat aiming to unseat Eric Ulrich as councilman for District 32. Scala announced his election run, and amused the crowd when he said, “I’m leaving this event more Caribbean, than when I came in.”

As the Senator concluded the press conference, he raised his headpiece, and as he ceremoniously put it on, declared, “On this one day only, everybody in Rockaway will be Caribbean, so get ready and start channeling your inner islander now. There will be steel bands, live soca and calypso music, and vendors. Come out, make friends and play mas!

The Rockaway Caribbean Carnival will take place on Saturday, August 19, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The parade will start on Mott Avenue and Beach 20th Street and continue to Seagirt Blvd., ending at Beach 17th amphitheater in the park. There will be local youth performances, entertainment and culturally-related activities. Residents will have the opportunity to participate in the festivities by patronizing vendors such as Dred Surfer Grill and Edgemere Food Fair & Market, which assisted in the planning of the event. Costumes are available for purchase or rent through ENJ productions. For information about costumes and participating in the parade, call 347-623-1264. For vending information, call 646-463-3271. And for all other queries, call 718-327-7017.

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