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Costumes, culture on display at West Indian American Day Parade

Posted at 6:22 PM, Aug 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-30 18:22:52-04

CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn — The annual West Indian American Day Parade is NYC is just days away, and that means security measures are starting to be put in place, revelers are getting ready, and last minute touches are being made to those vibrant costumes we all see on the masqueraders along the parade route.

"Costumes are our dress up, our celebration, it's celebrating life and our harvest," said Curtis Nelson, Executive Director of Sesame Flyers International, which makes costumes for the annual Caribbean carnival.

Nelson helps run Sesame Carnival, which has been designing intricate costumes for masqueraders in the parade for over 30 years.

"These costumes are made from beads, stones, all kinds of material and it takes months to come together and make the prototypes."

Sesame Carnival's collection this year is called Visions.

PIX11 got a sneak peak of their elaborate designs inside of their Brooklyn showroom.

The cost of the costumes range from $200 to $1,300.

"Visions in an inspiration, a way to inspire the community and believe in themselves and celebrate our culture through what we want to be," said Nelson of the love, light, and vibes.

While the organization makes hundreds of costumes every year, it's only one part of their year-round efforts involving city-youth programs.

"We run community centers and two beacon schools and we service community after school programs throughout the year," he said Friday.

"We just finished summer youth employment jobs for kids and 550-free summer camp slots for the community."

The parade which is held every year on Labor Day, along Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, has received criticism in the past due to violence associated with the festivities leading up the parade.

The NYPD has made some changes in hopes of keeping the cultural experience safe for everyone, beginning on Monday morning with J'Ouvert, which means “daybreak” in French, and signals the start of Carnival.

The parade, now in its 52nd year, is one of the largest in NYC, with tens of thousands expected to attend.

As things get underway, the heritage is important to remember and honor, organizers said.

"During slavery when the slaves wanted to entertain themselves they put on their masks and costumes and enjoyed themselves," said Dr. Jean Joseph, president of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association.

"It’s mixed with the French culture: the beautiful costumes and headpieces, and the African culture, and was brought over to the Caribbean."

The West Indian American Day Carnival Organization has several events leading up to the parade on Labor Day, for a list, visit: