Aug. 28, 2023 By Gabriele Holtermann
The free family-friendly event included a parade with floats, vendors along the boardwalk at Beach 17th Street, plenty of Caribbean food, fireworks and a music concert at O’Donohue Park. Additionally, revelers had the chance to win two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the U.S., provided by carnival partner JetBlue.
The Queens Carnival Parade kicked off at 701 Bay 32nd St. at around 12:30 p.m., when Caribbean Americans wearing vibrant colored costumes danced to Reggae and Socca music as floats featuring TWU Local 100, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital and elected officials made their way through Far Rockaway to the Rockaway Boardwalk at 9th Street and Seagirt Boulevard.
At O’Donohue Park, host Ian “The Goose” Elgon led the Queens Carnival concert, featuring musicians like Rikki Jai, Ricochet, Skinny Banton, Eddie Charles, Suhrawh & Kidblaze, LiveWire & Chucky and Lady Sparkles, who had the crowd on their feet, waving flags from their respective islands.
The Queens Carnival was the brainchild of state Sen. James Sanders, who envisioned bringing the community together with the festivities.
Sanders expressed that everyone was Caribbean at the festival, as they were celebrating the greatness of the islands.
“I was born in Long Island. My mother is from Alabama and my father is from South Carolina, but today, I’m from the Islands,” Sanders declared.
He praised Caribbeans for their culture, food and medicine.
“Wherever the people of the Caribbean go, they change the world for the better,” Sanders said. “They have come to New York City — not just New York City — they’ve come to Queens, the world’s most diverse borough.”
Sanders partnered with Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson, Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers and the Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corporation for the event.
Anderson shared that he was a staffer for State Senator Sanders when Sanders came up with the idea of a Queens Carnival in 2017.
“I was one of the organizers and one of the folks who got the community groups and entities to buy into such a concept that we can promote economic development. We can promote small businesses while also having a good time and celebrating Caribbean culture,” Anderson said.
Anderson, who represents Assembly District 31, said more than 30% of the district’s population are Caribbean Americans.
“This carnival really gives an opportunity for us to celebrate the richness of Afro-Caribbean, Caribbean [and] Indo-Caribbean culture right here on the peninsula,” Anderson said.
The carnival also has provided economic development support for the vendors whose businesses suffered during and post-COVID-19.
“When we think about the disparities with PPP loans, when we think about the disparities a Black and Brown business has, today is an opportunity to bring the people to enjoy the small businesses,” Anderson said.
Brooks-Powers explained that the parade route was longer this year than last year’s, allowing more Far Rockaway residents to enjoy the festivities.
Brooks-Powers, who sponsored the fireworks, said celebrating her Caribbean roots meant “a lot” to her.
“Especially as a first-generation American, both of my parents are Jamaican,” Brooks-Powers said. “We grew up in Jamaica with carnivals and people taking part in the culture and it’s so rich, and to see it come together here on the peninsula is a beautiful thing to see.”
Kevin Alexander, president and CEO of the Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corporation, said the Queens Carnival was the largest single-day event in the Rockaway.
“The positive of the Rockaways’ arts, music and culture is celebrated here today,” Alexander said.
Lana Jagotnarain represented Jamaica and Guyana. Jagotnarain, who is from Long Island, said this was her first time attending the Queens Carnival.
“I usually do Eastern Parkway [West Indian Parade in Brooklyn],” Jagotnarain said. “[Queens Carnival] is nice and intimate. I like it.”