Inaugural Rockaway Caribbean Carnival a Huge Success

On Saturday, August 19th, Far Rockaway grooved to the sounds of steel drum music and was mesmerized by the sight of colorful costumes. This could only mean one thing: Carnival came to Rockaway! Over 3,000 people attended the first annual Rockaway Caribbean Carnival for a day of fun, food, and culture.  As the brainchild of New York State Senator James Sanders Jr., the Carnival is the realizations of Sander’s dream to bring the traditional Caribbean celebration to the Rockaways. Through Senator Sander’s partnership with the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation (RDRC), the NYC Parks Department, and the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), Far Rockaway has a lot to be proud of after the success of the inaugural carnival.

Senator Sanders, along with Assemblywoman Stacy Pheffer Amato, CEO of RDRC Kevin Alexander, Chairwoman of the WIADCA Angela Sealy, and Grand Marshal of the Carnival Parade Randolph Holder Sr. kicked off the parade that began at Mott Ave and Beach 20th Street. Randolph Holder Sr. is the father of Detective Randolph Holder Jr., an NYPD officer and Far Rockaway native who was tragically shot and killed during a police chase in East Harlem in 2015. Detective Holder was proud of his Caribbean heritage and was an avid lover of Caribbean music such as soca, calypso, and reggae. While he put his life on the line to protect this city, his community continues to celebrate his memory.

Hundreds of spectators showed up to watch the parade, people watch, and enjoy the festivities.  The parade path stretched from Beach 20th Street to Beach 17th Street and brought the flavor of the Caribbean to the streets of New York. There were dancers of all shapes, sizes, and colors moving to the music of the steel drums, a native instrument of Trinidad and Tobago. The Moko Jumbies pleased the crowd and their colorful masks and outfits seemed to touch the sky as they danced on their stilts. As the parade progressed, many community groups were represented, including the NAACP Far Rockaway chapter, Far Rockaway RBI, Rosedale and 49th Street Civic Associations, Rock Safe Streets, Perfection Dance Center, Warrior Scholar Martial Arts, Maris Couture and Becky Associates, The Child Center of NY, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, and the Rockaway Youth Task Force. There was also a float dedicated to the memory of Manny Fiallo Jr., a pillar of the community, who passed away earlier this year.

The parade ended at Beach 17th street, but the party didn’t stop. The parade terminus featured more music and dancing and the boardwalk was outfitted with food vendors and stalls offering other professional services. DJ Will from YAC Radio provided tunes for the celebration, until Mighty Sparrow, dubbed the “Calypso King of the World” performed some of his classic hits, such as “Conga Man”, to the crowd’s delight.  

As the Carnival came to an end, it was obvious that the event was a huge success and big win for Far Rockaway. The celebration of Caribbean culture also meant a lot for residents with West Indian roots. One performer remarked, "Some people can't go back home so this is like a little piece of home for them." Attendees remarked on how the Carnival brought so many cultures together. "Out of many, we are one. That's the motto of Trinidad -- together we aspire, together we achieve," said a woman who participated in the parade.

The Carnival organizers are determined to bring the event back to Far Rockaway next year and residents are already marking their calendars and making their costumes.