Spring — and dyed power — was in the air in Richmond Hill Sunday as thousands of South Asians and others came to celebrate the 24th annual Phagwah Parade.
Phagwah, also called Holi, is a festival marking the arrival of spring. For years in Richmond Hill, the Indo-Guyanese population has celebrated with a parade that ends at Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto Park.
During the parade and in the park, the riders on the floats and spectators coat each other with colored powder meant to represent the flowers of spring.
“Every year it keeps getting bigger,” said Shanta Khemchaub, owner of Flowers by Shanta at 130th Street and Liberty Avenue.
The parade route began this year at Liberty Avenue and 133rd Street and continued westward along Liberty Avenue to 125th Street, ending at the park on 95th Avenue. The floats, most of which were from temples across the city although some represented businesses, blasted traditional music while their riders yelled out “Happy Phagwah! Happy Holi! Happy Spring!”
When the parade reached its conclusion at the park, the flurries of powder coated the air as celebrants smeared colored dust and sometimes sprayed purple dye on each other.
“It’s pretty enjoyable,” said Karisama Ramratan, 16. “Everyone’s having fun.”
Alladdin Moe, 40, came from Park Slope to celebrate Phagwah and rated the festivities 11 on a scale of one to 10.
“I’m not that religious, but it’s a celebration to ring in the new year, to ring in the spring,” Moe said.
Many of the paradegoers were from Guyana and waved the red, black, yellow, white and green flag of the country, but other celebrants came from Trinidad and Tobago, India and Suriname, and some were not South Asian at all.
“It’s much bigger, and it’s more diverse than it used to be,” said 30-year-old Natasha Singh.
South Asian ambassadors and Queens elected officials spoke during the festivities. Dr. Neil Parsan, ambassador from Trinidad and Tobago, said he was happy to see so many young people enjoying the holiday.
Bayney Karran, Guyanese ambassador to the United States, said Holi was about spring and about doing away with past enmities. He said the parade was a testament to the strength and unity of the community.
“Whether you are Hindu or non-Hindu, let us celebrate the principles of Phagwah,” Karran said.
The Queens officials said they were proud to represent the South Asian community in Richmond Hill.
“Everybody looks so beautiful and colorful,” said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).
City Comptroller John Liu said the holiday prepares the younger generation to celebrate their cultural heritage and the South Asian community.
“A community that adds so much to Queens, New York City and the United States of America,” Liu said.
Gurman Bhumak, 11, said he was having fun and had powdered many people during the parade.
“At least 100,” Gurman said. “More than 100. All the people that pass by. Straight on.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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