Preparations underway for the 2017 Phagwah Parade

Preparations underway for the 2017 Phagwah Parade
Photo by Michael Shain
By Gina Martinez

Preparations are underway for the upcoming 29th Annual Phagwah Parade in Richmond Hill.

The Joint Planning Committee of Phagwah Parade 2017 held a news conference Tuesday to update the community on the progress being made and reported that the event would take place come rain or shine March 12. The parade is set to begin at noon on 133rd Street and Liberty Ave. and end at Phil Rizzuto Park where cultural programs, which include dances and live music, will take place.

Richmond Hill is home to the largest Indo-Caribbean community in the United States. Phagwah, or Holi, is a Hindu spring festival also known as the Festival of Colors. During Holi, Hindus usually celebrate in the streets and spray friends and family with colored powders.

Just two years ago the parade was involved in controversy due to infighting. The parade’s permits were canceled by the NYPD for the first time in 2015 after disputes between the Hindu Parades & Festivals Committee and The Federation of Hindu Mandirs. The Hindu Parades faction had made accusations against the Federation of Hindu Mandirs and the NYPD. The Hindu Parades and the Federation both applied for permits on the same day last year, but the Hindu Parades had its permit pulled. Hindu Parades claimed it filed first in a civil suit against the NYPD. The Federation stopped the parade from being held for the first time since 1988.

Since then the planning committee has been composed of members from the both the Hindu Parades & Festivals Committee Inc., Hindu Mandirs Inc. and The Arya Spiritual Center, which are all working together to organize the parade.

The committee only had good news, telling reporters that all permits have been approved by the NYPD and that all key elements of the parade, including floats, performers, vendors and music, are in place. The committee members said they plan on making this year’s parade the best it has had in years by reaching out to the community and working with them.

“We are proud to contribute to the cultural diversity of the great city of New York by organizing and implementing an event like this parade,” Sagar Rajpal, a member of the planning committee, said. “We recognize that the Phagwah Parade is the community’s main cultural event and are committed to ensuring that we produce a spectacular parade.”

Rajpal hopes this year more members of the community will be included.

“We want to be inclusive of the entire community,” he said. “Not just Hindus in the Caribbean community but from India, Sri Lanka and from all different places. We are reaching out for everybody to join.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.