Up early? Beginning at 2am on Monday head over to Grand Army Plaza and join in the festivities of the West Indian-American Day Parade. The official parade does not begin until 11am, but starting in the wee hours, the party starts with J’ouvert, described by the Daily News as a “predawn, pre-carnival procession that features hand-pushed racks of non-amplified steel bands and other percussionist instruments, masqueraders wearing oil, mud, powder and paint and revelers satirically costumed to mock celebrities and VIPS."
J’ouvert might sound like innocent fun, but last year’s carnival was a bit over the top. At last year’s J’ouvert there was “dirty dancing” with police officers, and one City Councilman was said to have been arrested.
J’ouvert (pronounced ‘Joo Vay’) is French and means “day open.” According to blogger Jeffrey Contray there is no need to actually show up at 2am. As Contray wrote in his blog:
“It’ll probably be a ghost town. There’s a big Dimanche Gras (carnival band competition) party that goes until 2 a.m., and then people take their time getting situated. It’s a West Indian party, and everybody is on Caribbean time. Get there at 4:30 a.m. and you’ll be fine.”
J’ouvert will begin at Grand Army Plaza and continue down Flatbush Avenue to Empire Boulevard east, and then turn right on Nostrand Avenue and finish up on Linden Boulevard. In addition to the music you can expect to see lots of baby powder thrown in the air and on people in the crowd. J’ouvert ends at 6am, when most people catch a few winks until the official parade begins back at Grand Army Plaza at 11am.
The more official event is the West Indian-American Day Parade, and is not formally connected to J’ouvert.
“We have nothing to do with J'Ouvert,” said Angela Sealy, treasurer of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, organizers of the West Indian American Day Parade, which is expected to draw some three million revelers to Eastern Parkway on Sept. 3. “We know who the people are who run it, and they know us. But we don’t have anything to do with J’Ouvert.”
Sealy tries hard to make it clear that the parade and J’ouvert are two completely separate events.
“People have even tried to sue us for something that happened at J’Ouvert,” Sealy said. “When the lawyers call we have to tell them they have the wrong people.”