Revelers dress as bugs, flowers and fish in 2012 celebration
Clad in insect wings and paper mache masks, over 400 revelers paraded through Hunts Point to Barretto Point Park in the neighborhood’s annual Fish Parade on Saturday, June 16, to celebrate on the peninsula’s waterfront for the ninth straight year.
Artist collective TATS CRU served as grand marshals for this year’s bug, fish and flower- themed procession, as band students from nearby PS 48 provided musical accompaniment with saxophones and flutes, and congregants from the Real Life Church threw handfuls of candy to children watching from the sidewalks.
“We are meeting for you guys,” an emcee said into a bullhorn as the procession passed the Hunts Point Recreation Center on Manida St. “This is about Hunts Point pride,” he said, while children wearing giant paper mache likenesses of activists Nelson Mandela and Oscar Romero bobbed around him.
Hundreds more gathered in perfect sunny weather at Barretto Point Park on the shores of the East River when the parade ended, to see a Native American powwow on one side of the 11-acre park, and a basketball tournament run by Point to the Stars and the Police Athletic League, along with a talent- and- costume competition on the other.
Local non-profit Rocking the Boat launched canoes from a small patch of shoreline for festival-goers to paddle on the river, and the Bronx River Alliance loaned bikes without charge throughout the afternoon.
An exhibit on the Bronx Children’s Museum mobile bus drew attention to the return of beavers to the Bronx River.
“It’s the whole Hunts Pont community coming together,” said Mandy Lopez, 15, an environmental student activist at The Point CDC.
“This started off as a protest to the Fulton Fish Market nine years ago,” said Danny Peralta, The Point CDC’s Director of Arts and Education. But although the initial march in 2004 failed to keep an industrial plant from opening back then in a neighborhood many say is already saturated with environmentally-unfriendly industries, it galvanized residents and inspired activists to institute the Fish Parade as an annual event, he said.
Organizers noted the biggest challenge to keeping the annual event going lies in continuing to receive funding from the city. Securing permits from the city to use the parks, and renting audio equipment, costs thousands of dollars, they said.
“I fundraised by selling chocolate lollipops,” said Lucia Hernandez, who started The Hunts Point American Indian Council. Hernandez received a $2,500 grant this year from the Bronx Council of the Arts, but that was not enough to pay all of the dance and drum troupes.
Still, some dancers performed without getting paid, Hernandez said. The nationally-recognized SilverCloud Singers performed songs that honored both the audience and mother nature.
“This was really intimate, compared to the powwows I’ve attended,” said Jorge Vargas, 42, who happened on the festival by chance with his family. “I’m glad that they’re able to do stuff like that in Barretto Point Park–there’s space for a lot of cultural things to happen here.”
“We need these parks,” said youth activist Omar Rodriguez, to a small crowd on the other side of the park. Barretto and the area’s other parks are vital green oases in a neighborhood where many suffer from asthma due to trucks and industry, he said, adding they have helped Hunts Point become “a place like any other.”
The Point’s art director, Carey Clark hoped Hunts Point can become a mini Rio de Janeiro for one June Saturday every year.
“I’m hoping it grows and becomes what it was in the beginning which was like Carnival in Brazil,” she said.