Holi inspires Rich Hill with flying colors

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Photo gallery

Children use squirt bottles to douse parade goers with dye. Photo by Chrisitna Santucci
Dancers from Naytana Kendra holds plates of powder. Photo by Christina Santucci
Participants douse one another with dye. Photo by Christina Santucci
Kendall Floyd, 15, is covered with powder.
Vidya Satrohan (front) from Naytana Kendra in Ozone Park dances on stage. Photo by Christina Santucci
Participants wave a flag from Suriname. Photo by Christina Santucci
Joy Leonard looks out from a tent where dancers were getting ready.
Teenagers throw powder on one another inside the park. Photo by Christina Santucci
Children use squirt guns from their porch. Photo by Christina Santucci
One of the floats is visible from the window of a home along the parade route. Photo by Christina Santucci
Young girls drop confetti from a float. Photo by Christina Santucci
Dozens of people carry the flag of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Photo by Christina Santucci
Participants portraying Hindu deities march along Liberty Avenue. Photo by Christina Santucci
Viviana Sookdeo, (front c.) who is portraying Holika, has some help with her train. Photo by Christina Santucci
Navin Dass portrays Lord Krishna. Photo by Christina Santucci
A girl covered with red dye goes for a swing at Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto Park, formerly called Smokey Oval. Photo by Christina Santucci
Reaaz Ghanwy's face is a kaleidescope of color. Photo by Christina Santucci
Max, a dog from Canada, is bright pink. Photo by Christina Santucci
Shawn Harry, 2, is doused with baby powder. Photo by Christina Santucci
Thousands of people fill Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto Park. Photo by Christina Santucci
Calvin Ramdin (r.) gets decorated. Photo by Christina Santucci
Shawn Seepersaud portrays Shiva in the Phagwah parade. Photo by Christina Santucci

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 or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 11:30 am, March 19, 2012
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Reader feedback

sabdra lutchmidat from richmond hill business owner says:
It was such a proud moment to be a part of this grand event. Our holiday. As a fellow guyanese and having lived in N.Y. for 32 years, I cannot recall enjoying Holi to such grandeur in Guyana. It was such an amazing n UNFORGETABLE experience. I was very pleased to witness the orderly manner of this event of almost 25-30,000 ppl. I know next year will be a much more bigger event and I am certainly looking forward to being a part of this yearly celebration within our community..
March 20, 2012, 2:50 am
sandra bissoon lutchmidat from business owner, richmond hill says:
Congrats to the Committee Members for a Spectacular Event. Well Done!!!! Keep up the great work!
March 20, 2012, 3:16 am

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