New York City has a lot of parades. There‘s the Easter Parade; the Mermaid Parade; the Halloween Parade; the Chinese New Year Parade; the Dance Parade. And more besides.
At some point, however, someone in the mayor’s office apparently sat up and said ”You know what this city needs? Another parade!“ And then someone else said “You know, the New Year parade in Chinatown is nice, but it’s very Chinese, and there’s a lot more to Asia than just China.”
And so the Asian-American and Pacific Islanders Parade was born. 2022 is its first year, and at first sight I was unimpressed. There were a handful of floats. There were people milling around in costume. There were people handing out flags (both US and Chinese). There was Elaine Chao, the former Secretary of Transportation, riding in an electric blue Rolls Royce Drophead Phantom Limited Edition with suicide doors and an immaculate white leather interior that probably sold for the equivalent of the GDP of a small African nation. But it didn’t seem as if it was a very large parade. New traditions take time to get started; it looked as if the AAPI Parade was going to have a rocky first year.
Reader, I was wrong. Once the parade actually kicked into gear, I realized my mistake. It began with the usual confetti canons, some rather motivated lions trying to eat a cabbage, a few assorted police associations with flags and dress uniforms. But then it went on. And on. And on. The Chinatown New Year parade has started to look a little depressed over the last few years, with the pageantry mostly eclipsed by a long line of rather drab floats sponsored by national chain businesses insincerely trying to look rooted in the local community. The new parade was of a different order. There were one or two corporate floats, to be sure, but they were outnumbered by a long stream of solidarity associations, dance companies, martial arts schools, veteran’s associations, and more, all in a glittering array of different colors and costumes.
There were at least two Chinese dragons. More lion dance teams than you could shake a cabbage at. People with parasols. Dancers with scarves and fans. Korean war veterans in camouflage. An assortment of people wearing anthropomorphized cartoon animal costumes (Chinese Snoopy, anyone?). And more besides. Every time I thought they must have finally run out, another group would come marching up.
As an attempt to manufacture a new tradition out of nothing, it was pretty impressive, with all the color and pageantry you could ask for. I don’t know where it goes from here, but its first year was undeniably spectacular.