STORY AND PHOTOS BY ERIN MAHER
This past sunny Saturday, May 12, was the perfect weather for a parade. The annual African American Parade and Festival was held in Nyack, Rockland County. The parade, organized by the local Nyack chapter of the NAACP, promptly began at 2 p.m. at the at the old Nyack High School field, continued down Main Street past the local shops and restaurants, and ended right on the water at Nyack’s Memorial Park.
Over 500 people of every color, age, and gender lined the streets to witness the marchers, including belly dancers, the Nanuet Cadets Corps, and Spring Valley’s NAACP Youth Council. The sound of drum beats reverberated along Main Street as a group of musicians banged the drums and dancers outfitted in colorful and vibrant African garb performed traditional African dances and sang songs.
Two new additions to this year’s merriment were the Grand Marshalls of the parade, twins Jason and Devin McCourty, both professional football players born and raised in Rockland County.
“It was an awesome experience marching today,” said Jason McCourty, member of the Tennessee Titans “It’s wonderful to see a lot of faces you haven’t seen in awhile.” Devin McCourty, cornerback for the New England Patriots, was ecstatic about the parade, and the impact that this celebration has on the community. “It’s important for young kids to see success, and inspire them to keep believing in their dreams,” he said.
The McCourty twins were all smiles as family, friends, and community members welcomed them home. Children flocked to greet them, and it was apparent how connected and involved they still are with their hometown and its residents.
Entertainment also featured Rockland County’s famous East Ramapo Marching Band, which has won over 250 awards in the past 20 years for their outstanding accomplishments. Nyack NAACP President Francis Pratt was among the marchers, as well as Everett Swan, the recipient of the Honorary Buffalo Soldier award, referring to segregated fighting units in past wars.
As the parade came to a close at Memorial Park, the festivities began. In the gazebo at Memorial Park, New York R&B radio station WBLS dee-jayed the event, while vendors, food stands, and even a small job fair sponsored by Rockland County were all present for the festival attendees.
Parade committee member Louise Parker explained the months and process that went into planning such an event, and that with each year, more people want to get involved. “Invitations are sent out to prior participants of the parade, but every year new groups come forward excited to join in the celebration.”
The parade and festival drew a crowd that is as unique and diverse as the town of Nyack itself, and is a wonderful community celebration that everyone can enjoy.