Each year, Fifth Avenue in Manhattan offers the most famous Easter Parade in the country.
What began fairly spontaneously in the 1870s, as people emerged from Fifth Avenue’s famous churches – St Patrick’s and St Thomas’, has become less of a parade and more of a place to see and be seen.
“The photographers will snap us,” the line in Irving Berlin’s 1933 song, captures the scene, as people photograph and are photographed with people wearing the most interesting, decorative, and even outrageous hats.
While once the Easter Parade was all about the hat, it is increasingly about the ensemble, or the total costume.
Like the famous Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, New Yorkers use the opportunity to dress up to show off their creativity or send a message or just show off.
As Wendy Lee of New York City said, coming to the Easter Parade for the first time, “It’s a spectacle.”
But Sam and Mary Bishop of New York City, were out to show what the Easter Parade used to be: he in his top hat and grey morning coat and gloves, a yellow flower in his lapel, and she in an elegant pink jacket and pink hat.
Judy and Carter Willsey, Drew Nemetz, Frannie Willsey, from White Plains, have been coming for 25 years.
The parade attracts people from all over the country and the world, there is a melange of languages, but everyone seems right at home.
This is a parade like no other – totally unorganized (people do not even walk in the same direction), no floats or banners or marching bands. People just stroll up or down the Avenue, as the song goes.
There are also an assortment of street performers – from break dancers to animal balloon makers. But the best was a band – Michael Arnella and his Dreamland Orchestra, playing the “hot jazz” of the 1920s and 1930s, which brought out more than a dozen swing dancing fans, marvelously appropriately attired in outfits from the 1930s and 1940s.
For many, “top” hat means “over the top” with wildly creative and outlandish displays. Some of the hats are so top-heavy, they are hard to wear.
The Easter Parade was always about showing off one’s finery and the latest fashions – indeed, it became a demonstration of America’s prosperity. These days, it is also about making a statement with fashion – sometimes irreverent, sometimes outrageous, an echo of New York’s famous Halloween parade.
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