It's almost Labor Day, so preparations are underway for the 45th annual West Indian American Day Parade and Carnival in Brooklyn and the costume-making frenzy is at its peak. Borough reporter Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
Six-year-old Destinee Johnson of Flatbush, Brooklyn is practicing her shimmy, now that she has picked up her colorful costume for the West Indian American Day Parade.
Destinee gets her moves from her Trinidad- born grandmother, Erica Wilson.
"It's our culture, so I would like her to learn, even though she was born and grew up here. I would like her to learn what it's like," said Wilson.
Children participate not only in the parade but also in costume competitions over the five days of events. But Sherzel Snell, a children's costume maker in Sherzel Productions, says it is not all about winning.
"I do this for the fun because I love this," said Snell. "And win, lose or draw, that's what I like to do. See the kids happy, and the masks and the festivities and the soca and the music and the steel band and the colors."
Costumes for both the kids and the adults are ornate. From the initial design to making sure each bead and feather is in just the right place, the costume making process takes months. One shop is currently making 75 purple headpieces.
"You still have the bra, you still have the belt, we still have arm pieces and foot pieces, so it's pretty much a lot of work. And we still try to throw in necklaces and earrings so the whole thing comes together beautifully," said costume designer Lenora Yeates.
Some two million spectators come out to see the parade every Labor Day. This year's theme, "Unity, History and Culture," will pay special tribute to two West Indian nations.
"Since it's Trinidad and Tobago's 50th anniversary and Jamaica's 50th anniversary of independence, both islands, we are spotlighting both nations," said Jean Alexander of the West Indian Day Carnival Association.
Grand Marshals include Harry Belafonte, of Jamaican heritage, and soca music king Machel Montano, representing Trinidad and Tobago.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is also a grand marshal, though tracing her Caribbean roots might take some doing.
The West Indian American Day Parade makes it way down Eastern Parkway starting at noon on Monday.