West Indian–American Day Carnival: Caribbean culture in New York

Every Labor Day, the West Indian–American day carnival celebrates Caribbean culture and heritage in New York.

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

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Photograph: Filip Wolak

West Indian-American Day Carnival 2013

The annual West Indian–American Day Carnival draws close to two million people to Crown Heights in Brooklyn each year. During the seven-hour New York carnival, steel-pan and calypso bands in elaborate costumes march down Eastern Parkway, and vendors sell homestyle island grub along the route. The pre-parade festivities begin before dawn with J’ouvert ("daybreak" in French), an irreverent festival held before the main event. Revelers often dress up as political figures or celebrities and throw powdered paint at each other, while steel drums and whistles provide the celebratory soundtrack.

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Things to do

West Indian-American Day Carnival

This Caribbean celebration, known for having lively music and lots of skin, is never short on costumed stilt dancers, floats blaring soca and calypso music, and plenty of flags from countries such as Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Look for vendors stationed along Eastern Parkway selling island eats like jerk chicken, curry goat and oxtail. Early risers can preparty at J’ouvert (pronounced “joo-VAY”), a predawn festival in which revelers throw powdered paint at each other. Head to Grand Army Plaza around 4am when the high jinks really get going. Eastern Pkwy from Schenectady Ave to Flatbush Ave, Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Subway: 3, 4, 5 to Crown Hts-Utica Ave.

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West Indian–American Day Carnival photos

Photos: 2013 Carnival

Costumed revelers danced through the streets, while vendors served traditional Caribbean dishes. 

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Things to do

Photos: 2012 Carnival

2012 marked the 50th anniversary of Trinidadian and Jamaican independence.

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Photos: 2011 Carnival

An outfit incorporating teddy bears is something you don't see every day—or even every West Indian-American Day.

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Photos: J'ouvert 2009

Paint-throwing and political costumes at 4am.

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