By Ivan Pereira
The neighborhood held its annual Phagwah parade and festival, which began on Liberty Avenue and 134th Street and ended at Smoky Oval Park. The event, where Hindus traditionally ring in spring by throwing dyes and colored powder at each other, drew tens of thousands of Guyanese and Indian Hindus as well as some of other faiths and backgrounds.”This is one of the best events in the community,” said Angela Fernandez, 12, of Richmond Hill, who was covered head-to-toe in green, pink and purple dust.The celebrations began with a huge parade at 134th Street and Liberty Avenue with floats, marchers confetti and bands. When the parade ended at Smoky Oval Park, the paradegoers began dusting each other with colored powder for hours on end.In a neighborhood filled with Guyanese and South Asian residents, the festival was not only a religious celebration but a show of nationalistic pride.”This is a day of Hindu consciousness,” said longtime paradegoer Prekash Persaud of Valley Stream, L.I. “Here we show our solidarity.”As the dust slowly settled around the area, the celebrators spent the rest of the day partying in the park with live music and games.The festival, known as Holi in South Asian nations such as India, marks the new year of the Hindu lunar calendar. The holiday symbolizes the beginning of spring and the victory of good forces over evil ones.Those who take part in the celebrations proudly show that triumph by showering their neighbors with bright colors.”For me, Phagwah is great because I get to come together with my family and celebrate taking over evil,” said Sandra Sakhu of Hollis.When Indians were brought to Caribbean nations, such as Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, during the late 19th century, they carried on the tradition and it eventually became a major holiday. In the 1990s, Indo-Guyanese groups in Queens began celebrating the holiday with a major parade and attendance has increased tremendously over the years.After Sept. 11, there was some public concern over the use of powder in public streets, but that fear has worn away, according to many paradegoers.”A lot of non-Hindus come out here more than ever,” Persaud said. “There is something special that attracts them.”Ken Parker, 63, who traveled all the way from England with his Guyanese wife to take part in the celebration, said he was amazed by the excitement of the festival and would love to come back to Queens next year.”This really is fun. I'm so impressed with all the work,” he said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.