I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Years ago, the non-profit group Earth Celebrations hosted a biannual festival that turned tree hugging face-painted hippies into an army of environmental activists. Twice each year they danced through the East Village to help preserve community gardens. These days Earth Celebrations is just as dedicated to saving Earth from the hands of corporate America, only it has shifted its focus to preserving the fragile ecosystem of the Hudson River.
Its now annual festival, which takes place on May 22, parades along Hudson River Park and combines the talent and spectacular energies of hundreds of puppeteers, dancers, musicians, and activists. As the group makes its way north from the World Financial Center, it makes various stops along the Hudson riverfront to Gansevoort Street in Chelsea. The revelry is an attempt to call attention to preserving the environment and thwarting climate change.
Giant 15-foot puppets, face- and body-painted activists, wildly innovative costumes, musicians, dancers, and more will delight young and old alike as they parade and perform along the waterfront. A spectacular Boat Dance and Harmonic Chant Concert closes the performance, but not before the world premiere of River Goddess Flowing, a choreographed dance performed on the river complete with 30-foot rowboats festooned with marine-like sculptures and costumed people in kayaks.
As she has from the pageant's inception 15 years ago, director and founder Felicia Young keeps things fresh, lively, and ever so colorful. The pageant is a unique way to get New Yorkers fired up about the environment while incorporating the talents of young people. For several months, children of all ages create awesome oversized puppets and flamboyant costumes through free Earth Celebrations Art & Ecology Puppet and Costume Workshops with artists-in-residence Michelle Brody and Lucrecia Novoa, sponsored in part by the Hudson River Park Trust, Manhattan Youth Downtown Community Center, the River Project, Friends of Hudson River Park, Henry Street Settlement, and many more.
Watching the festivities is truly a unique city experience. Expect both choreographed and improvisational dancing, poetry readings with an environmental theme, stilt-walkers, giant puppets, and the most colorfully rendered costumes and body paint of any of the New York parades. This year even promises a live fish release! Take the kids and enjoy the color, but more important, use the experience as an opportunity to teach them about protecting our precious waterways and limited resources.