CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn (PIX11) — With more than two million people in attendance, J’Ouvert and the West Indian American Day Parade and Carnival are a weekend-long festival that’s the largest party in New York, and one of the biggest in the world. After a three-year hiatus because of the pandemic, the party is back. On Friday, a variety of people, from parade participants, to organizers, and law enforcement, said they’re ready for the festivities, but want to ensure that they’re safe.
Also on Friday, many people were in full party preparation mode in and around Central Brooklyn.
At Sesame Flyers, one of many stores and workshops — called mass camps — that outfit parade participants, families were waiting to pick up costumes for the Junior Carnival. It’s the children’s parade, held on Saturday.
Senai London Cox, 7, is one of the thousands of children who participate. She was at Sesame Flyers picking up her parade costume, with her mother, on Friday afternoon. She said that many people she knows will join her at the Saturday event.
“My cousin, and my other cousin, and all my people” will be there, she said.
Also picking up a costume on Friday was the family of Paige Cooper. The one-and-a-half year-old will march on Saturday in a troupe of toddlers in angel costumes.
Her father, Trevourn Cooper, said that the whole weekend is like a reunion.
“We’re all hanging out,” he said, “with family we haven’t seen for some years, especially during COVID.”
The excitement was palpable in neighborhoods surrounding the parade route on Eastern Parkway and Nostrand Avenue.
Sharing in that excitement was Samantha Rutherford, the mother of Sanei London Cox, who also acknowledged that the carnival weekend can at times get boisterous.
“I’m hoping for the best,” she said. “Hopefully, everybody keeps it together for this weekend.”
There have been some acts of violence during carnivals in the past, including the death of governor’s aide Carey Gabay from a stray bullet in 2015. Such incidents are rare, considering that millions of people are in attendance.
Gabay’s widow, Trenelle Gabay, now runs a foundation and community and recreation center bearing his name. She said in an interview on Friday that the carnival brings people together, safely, thanks to specific efforts by the city, the NYPD, and other groups.
“They strategically outline certain measures for people to be able to celebrate and feel safe,” Gabay said.
She attended a security briefing at the Gabay Recreation Center led by the NYPD. She was joined by other community leaders, including Rev. Gil Monrose, an organizer of the carnival and a pastor of a major Brooklyn congregation.
“The whole idea about working together,” he said in an interview, “[is] the Caribbean cultural weekend.”
Leading the security briefing was NYPD Chief of Patrol Jeffrey Maddrey. In an interview with PIX11 News afterward, he said that there was one main theme in the department’s approach to carnival weekend.
“We want to respect our communities that are celebrating,” he said. “We’re going to make sure they have a good time. but we’re also going to be prepared for anything that comes our way, and we’ll have the resources to address it.”
Festivities run from Friday night through the early morning hours of Tuesday. A full schedule of official activities is here from the West Indian American Day Carnival Association.