“This is something you might want to see,” said M. I'm a sucker for processions of any kind, but the description of Earth Celebrations' Ecological City made it sound like little more than a bigger version of the community gardens march that I'd photographed almost exactly twelve years before. That had been colorful and amusing, but relatively low-key.
Still, I'll go anywhere for a photo opportunity, so I put my camera in my bag and cycled up to 12th Street. Almost as soon as I arrived, I realized that this was a much bigger and more spectacular affair. The costumes, even by the standards of New York – a city that loves playing dress-up – were vivid and lavish. There were a good half-dozen giant puppets – what the Spanish would call gigantes – with robes and stylized papier-mâché heads, a marching band, a group of bicyclists dressed as bees (bee-cyclists?), and probably six or eight times as many people as at the earlier event. A rather harried-looking policeman in a tiny NYPD Smart appeared to have been given the task of supervising the whole affair; he probably had some colleagues somewhere, but if so they were lost in the crowd.
The parade made its way slowly from garden to garden, weaving back and forth across the East Village and the Lower East Side. At each garden, there was a small performance of some kind – a reading of a poem at Campos Garden on 12th Street, a choir at 9th & C, a dance performance at La Plaza Cultural. At the corner of 10th St and Avenue C, long-time activist Paul Garrin explained his vision for sustainable power generation in the East Village. And the list went on …
I, however, did not. I had other places to go, so I left the procession at La Plaza Cultural on E 9th, and went on with my Saturday. M. caught up with them almost four hours later, when they finally reached the East River for the final event of the day. She reported that, after five hours on the go, the dancers were looking more than a little tired.