Carnival Comes To Rockaway

Throughout the African diaspora, people of color are celebrating Carnival. Carnivals are associated with the Christian tradition of Lent and modern carnivals have roots that date back to 18th century Trinidad and Tobago. Revelers celebrate the season by donning costumes and body paint and parading through the streets. From Brazil to Toronto, celebrations are being held across the globe and soon Far Rockaway will have its chance to join in on the fun. This August, Far Rockaway will host its first annual Rockaway Caribbean Carnival! The celebration will pay tribute to the rich history and culture of the diaspora.

The Rockaway Caribbean Carnival is the result of a collaboration between State Senator James Sanders Jr., the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), the Rockaway Development Revitalization Corporation (RCRC), and the NYC Parks Department. In June, Senator Sanders expressed his excitement and pride about the upcoming festival. “We are going to have some fun,” Sanders said. “We are going to be celebrating all of the Rockaways, but we will be particularly highlighting the contributions of the Caribbean community to America. There will be good food, good company – come and make a friend. We are going to have a ball.”

The purpose of Carnival is to celebrate the culture, history, and contributions of Caribbean people and the celebration is a long-time staple in New York City. Ms. Jessie Wardell, a West Indian immigrant, planned the first Carnival in the early 1930s in Harlem and is responsible for the growth of the celebration throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Since then, Carnival celebrations have been held all over the city, most notably in Brooklyn. Each year, the Brooklyn Labor Day Parade draws over a million residents and tourist to Eastern Parkway to participate in the festivities. By bringing the celebration to the Queens, this community hopes to honor and celebrate the tradition the Rockaway way.

Residents are already looking forward to the celebration. Cerrisa Huggins, a lifelong Far Rockaway resident with West Indian roots said, “I can’t wait to attend the festival with my family and friends. West Indian culture is so rich and I’m excited that my community gets to celebrate Carnival together.” Many locals are also excited about the additional opportunity to celebrate Carnival on the Rockaway peninsula. Barry McKenzie says, “Brooklyn has had the Carnival game locked up for so long. I’m glad Rockaway is going to get a chance to celebrate the culture and add our flavor to Carnival.”

The Rockaway Caribbean Carnival will be held on Saturday August 19th from 11am to 5pm. The festivities will include a parade from Mott Avenue and Beach 20th Street to the amphitheater in the park at Beach 17th Street. There will be live entertainment from various local groups in addition to vendors selling traditional foods and costumes. Attendees can also participate in cultural activities throughout the day. The senator’s office hopes that the Rockaway Caribbean Carnival will serve as a uniting event for the community and will become an annual fixture in the Rockaways. For more information, be sure to follow the Rockaway Caribbean Carnival’s Facebook page.