Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Parade: What to know about the colorful celebration

The pounding drums, rhythmic dancing and kaleidoscope of colors of the West Indian Day Parade return with a flourish on Labor Day.

With more than 50 bands registered to participate in this year’s festivities, including 28 children’s bands, the seven-hour-long Carnival parade is sure to be particularly jubilant.

According to Brooklyn band leader Tamera George-Khalifa, groups have been busy preparing for the parade for several months. Now that it’s here, “you can look and see, this is what we worked so hard for,” she told us.

The parade, which took place in Harlem until it moved to Crown Heights in 1969, is organized by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), which puts on multiple cultural events throughout the year, and follows the annual J’Ouvert festival, which begins at 6 a.m. Monday.

In the past, J’Ouvert had started earlier in the morning, but after multiple instances of violence and the shooting death of Carey Gabay in 2015, the city pushed the start time to later and added more security.

Before you head out to J’Ouvert or the West Indian Day Parade, here’s what you need to know:


When: Labor Day, Sept. 2 at 6 a.m. (participants will start lining up at 2 a.m., the NYPD said)

Where: Starting at Grand Army Plaza, the parade goes south on Flatbush Avenue, turns east on Empire Boulevard, then proceeds south on Nostrand Avenue, ending at Midwood street.

What it is: J’Ouvert, meaning “dawn” or “daybreak” in Antillean Creole French, is an early morning street party held in several Carribbean countries as part of Carnival. In some cultures, part of the tradition is to smear paint, mud or oil on participants. In this case, Brooklyn J’Ouvert-goers use white powder.

What to know about security: There will be 13 secure entry and screening points to the J’ouvert route and thousands of officers on duty. Alcohol, guns, large bags and marijuana are prohibited. Cameras and more than 300 light towers will be placed across the route at each entry point and the route’s perimeter will aso be secured by blocker cars, barriers and sanitation trucks.

West Indian Day Parade

When: Labor Day, Sept. 2; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (participants will start lining up around 10 a.m.)

Where: The parade runs on Eastern Parkway, beginning at Schenectady Avenue, stopping for a grand finale at the Brooklyn Museum, and ending at Flatbush Avenue.

What you’ll see: Representation of different countries, groups with anywhere from 50 to 300 dancers in feathered and bejeweled costumes, colorful floats, steel drum players, and local politicans.