Calendar of Ethnic Festivals


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International African Arts Festival
(formerly the African Street Festival)
First weekend in July, Friday – Sunday, 10:00am-7:00pm
Fulton Street from Malcolm X Boulevard to Marcus Garvey Boulevard

What began in 1971 as a small block party has evolved into a diverse celebration of all the cultures that encompass or have influenced Africa. This enormous, popular fair is laid out to represent the countries of Africa, both to help organize the 400 vendor booths, and to ensure the continuity that gives this event an atmosphere of reunion for the 30,000 daily visitors. Crafts, clothing, wearable art, hoe furnishings, books, musical instruments and toys abound. African, African-American, and Caribbean foods are sold throughout the grounds. Multiple stages offer continuous live musical entertainment such as African, reggae, calypso, soca, Latin, jazz, gospel, hip hop and R&B as well as special children’s programming. The multi-day event mixes entertainment with cultural workshops and tributes to revered African-Americans.

For more information:, 718-638-6700.

last update: 9/2003

Feast of the Giglio
Two Sundays in July (July 11, 18 with feast on the 7th and evening dance on the 14th), 1st Sunday, 1 pm; 2nd Sunday, 2 pm
Williamsburg, North 8th and Havemeyer Streets

The spectacle of the giglio is unlike any other parade in the city. The Brooklyn version of a centuries-old Italian festival from the town of Nola dates to the settlement of the neighborhood by Nolani in the early part of this century. The story goes that in the 5th Century B.C., St. Paulinus was welcomed back from years of slavery by citizens waving lilies. Over time, the lilies were symbolically replaced by wood and papier-mache towers, or gigli, which are “danced” through the streets on the backs of 100 men.

The Brooklyn giglio is 6 stories high and weighs more than 2 tons. It is topped with a statue of St. Paulinus, and at its base rides a full brass band, providing accompaniment to the “dances” of the carriers. The ritual of these performances is deeply rooted in the social and religious structure of this Italian community. Its place in their hearts is clear on these emotional and exuberant Sundays. The first Sunday is more commonly known as Giglio Sunday. The day begins at 9am with the Capo’s Parade. Here, a procession lead by the head clergy men of the parish, marching through the neighborhood picking up various dignitaries including the Turk, the apprentice Capo’s, the feast General Chairman and lastly—the number one Capo. From here the procession returns back to the church for the ‘Standing Room Only’ Giglio mass at 11am.

For more information:
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 718/384-0223,

last update: 9/2003

Bastille Day
Sponsored by Florent Restaurant as a benefit for Housing Works, July 14t, Bastille Day, noon – 11:00pm
Gansevoort Street between Washington & Greenwich Streets

As Bastille Day is celebrated in Paris, this day-long block party fills the street with accordion players, can-can dancers and jugglers. Family-oriented programming during the day is followed by more risqué entertainment in the evening.

For more information: Florent Restaurant, 212-989-5779

last update: 9/2003

O-Bon Festival
Mid-July 1-5 pm
Bryant Park, 41st Street and Sixth Ave

This summer Buddhist celebration commemorates the spirits of ancestors with songs and dances from the regions of Japan. The O-Bon refers to a dance of joy and a legendary Buddhist teaching from the 6th Century B.C. in which a disciple of Buddha was able to relieve his mother’s plight in the afterworld by acts of atonement for her earthly greed. In thanks for her salvation, he danced. Following a week of memorial rituals at Buddhist temples, the Festival attracts crowds to watch traditional dance and drum performances and invited anyone in the audience to join in the celebratory Bon Odori circle dances. The fun begins at 1pm, but volunteers can meet at the temple at 10am to help load materials for transport to Bryant Park or meet at the park.

For more information:
New York Buddhist Church of Riverside Drive, 212-678-0305.

last update: 9/2003

Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
July 16, 10 am, street fair from 4-11 pm week prior to feast day
East Harlem, 114th St. to 116th St. on Pleasant Ave.

In what the New York Times termed “street religion New York style,” this festival and procession fills the streets of East Harlem with 2,000 people, in a neighborhood tradition that dates to 19th-century Italian immigrants. In what is now El Barrio, Hispanic people and French Creole Haitians dominate the procession, creating a multi-language public veneration of the Virgin Mary. A candlelight procession and midnight mass the night before the Feast Day end a novena at the church.

On July 16th, the large procession of prayer and offering to the Saint takes the 7-foot statue into the streets on a float filled with flowers and children. It is pulled through the neighborhood by men from the parish wearing white tuxedos and is “serenaded” by fireworks along the way. Stops are made at two neighborhood churches, which open their doors and ring their bells in honor of the event.

For more information: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, 212-534-0681. To join Our Lady of Mt. Carmel festivities in the Bronx, contact Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, 718-295-3770

last update: 9/2003

Colombian Independence Day
Sunday July 11 (2004), 10am-6pm
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, World’s Fair site

New York’s Colombian-Americans, the majority of whom live in Queens, unite to remember their country and celebrate its culture through merengue music by Colombian bands, displays of Colombian crafts, and a great assortment of native foods. Arepas, chuzos, agua panela, and cazava, among other dishes, are for sale, as well as being shared in family picnics throughout the grounds. This event dates from 1974 and attracts several hundred thousand people.

For more information: 718-699-4833.

last update: 5/2004

Thunderbird American Indian Dancers Mid-Summer Pow-wow
Last weekend in July (July 27 & 28, 1996), Saturday 2-5pm, 7-10 pm; Sunday 1-4 pm
Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Parkway

A powwow is a social gathering of native Americans usually including competitive dancing. People from over forty Indian Nations bring to the museum’s orchard such dances as Gourd Dances, Women’s Jingle Dress Contest, Men’s Grass Dance Contest, and the intricate Fancy Dance. At the Saturday evening show, a large bonfire burns in the middle of the circle, and the day’s performances are repeated. For onlookers, an MC gives the history of each dance, its tribal connections and costume, and the dancers often mingle in the crowd, answering questions about their dance and tribe. Throughout the weekend, vendors sell Native American food and crafts.

For more information: Queens County Farm Museum, 718-347-FARM.

last update: 5/2004


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