Surviving Labor Day on Eastern Parkway: Carnival 2012 in Brooklyn, New York

It is time for the biggest cultural celebration in New York… the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn, NY!

Are you ready?  The celebration begins around 3 in the morning (has changed to midnight in the past, so this can vary) with J’ouvert, and then the parade starts at 10:00 am and goes from Schenectady Avenue to Grand Army Plaza on Eastern Parkway, then south on Flatbush Avenue to Empire Boulevard.  It ends at 6.

To get there by subway:

  • Take the 2 to Grand Army Plaza or Franklin Avenue
  • Take the 3 to Grand Army Plaza or Franklin Avenue or Utica Avenue
  • Take the 4 to Franklin Avenue or Utica Avenue
  • Take the 5 to Franklin Avenue

Franklin Avenue station is crowded, and should be avoided if possible.

My mom usually goes every year. We chatted on the phone for a while about Carnival in Brooklyn, and as we talked her accent would get more “unrestrained” as she elaborated on the commotion.

Here are some of her tips for having a great time on Eastern Parkway…

Me: What about J’ouvert?

Mom: J’ouvert morning doesn’t have too many people.  That is when they go after the politicians, wit dey placahds (placards) and dey sign an ting. You can wear anything, and there’s plenty of steel pan.  One year, a man rented a donkey – can you imagine all that crap?  Be sure to wear some ol shirt, dey trowin’ powdah, dey trowin’ paint, trowin’ everyting! All de ol’ folks come out fi dat.

Me: What’s the best place to watch?

Mom: By the Brooklyn Museum, especially if I was bringing my grandchirren. It isn’t quiet, but compared to everything else – it’s not bad. There is no service to the Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum stop, so take the 2 or 3 Grand Army Plaza or Utica Avenue to get into the fray or Franklin avenue to eat and watch… is is a crowded station though.

Me: What do we HAVE to have?

Mom: A small purse with food money, metro card, and ID.  No need to bring water or anything.  The less you carry the better.  No need to bring food or water. Anyting you want to eat an drink – its out deah… bote side ah deh street.  If you want to bring a camera, make sure it is small and secure.

Me: What shouldn’t be worn on Eastern Parkway?

Mom: Don’t wear anything you can’t get stained – mud, powder, and blue paint is in abundance, and some aim at those who are looking “pretty pretty”. No high heels – those aren’t easy to “chip” in. No flip flops – people gettin’ on bad, and yuh toes gon’ get mash up in de commess.”

Me: What do you suggest to wear?

Mom: You need comfortable sneakers and socks, a hat for the sun or poncho for the rain, and clothes with coverage – That is if you don’t wan to get touch up touch up. There is some rale ignorance doung deah.

Me: What is the best way to get out when it is over?

Mom: Leaving early, go back to Franklin Avenue station – the one where you need to take the shuttle.  If you want to wait a lil bit until things are over, you can take the 2 or the 3.

Me: What are your top tips for Labor Day revelers?

Mom: Make sure you are dressed properly, and that your money is secure.  Stay by the museum if you want to watch, go down Eastern Parkway if you want to be in de commess.  Be prepared to try different foods, it doesn’t cost too much to eat $20 should do it. The vendors mark up the prices on souvenirs and food during the carnival, so eat before you leave so you aren’t too hungry, and bring your own flag, rag, and whistle!

Me: Anything else that you suggest?

Mom: When I go, I don’t miss Kiddies Carnival, Panorama, and J’ouvert.  They are the most beautiful events, especially if you love steel pan.

For more information on the events, go to the West Indian American Day Carnival Association website:

What are YOUR top tips for the West Indian Day Parade weekend?