The vibrant Phagwah Parade infuses Richmond Hill with color

By Andy Katz

The city’s most colorful cavalcade flowed along Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill on Sunday morning as Queens’ Hindu residents joined local leaders and revelers for the 31st annual Phaghwah Parade

A light rain fell on the 21 floats that drove along the route, but that didn’t stop parade goers from livening up the atmosphere with gallons of bright powdered paint — which they tossed into the air and onto each other.

“Holi signifies the triumph of good over evil,” said co-organizer Romeo Hitlall. “The use of colors began with a game Lord Krishna played with his consort, Radha. And of course, it also marks the coming of springtime and a renewal to the Earth.”

Holi coincides with the lunar cycles and takes place after the full moon in March, which means the holiday can fall any time from late winter to early spring. Last year’s parade took place on April 14. In 2017, it was March 12.

“This is my holiday,” said NYPD Captain David Singh, his cheeks brushed with vivid maroon and yellow powder. “So I really enjoy it. It’s all good fun.”

This year’s parade was sponsored by the Federation of Hindu Mandirs and the Arya Spiritual Center, Inc. The organizers dedicated the event to Guyanese spiritual leader Dharmacharya Pandit Ramlall, who passed away in late January of 2019.

Phagwah organizers also honored NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen who was shot and killed in a friendly-fire incident while responding to a robbery in February. The organizers presented a plaque and a $1,000 check to Simonsen’s family.

After proceeding along Liberty Avenue, the procession arrived at Smokey Oval/Phil Rizzuto Park. Speakers and performers, including the renowned dancer Urvashie Kissoon took the stage to entertain the crowd. Local leaders, including Councilmembers Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich, and Jimmy Van Bramer and former Judge Gregory Lasak, a candidate for Queens district attorney, also attended the event.

Before reaching the stage area, celebrants passed through a gauntlet of brightly colored powders tossed by fellow revelers.

The light rain was no match for their energy.

“This is nothing,” said co-organizer Todd Greenberg, a partner in the firm Addabbo and Greenberg. “Two years ago it was below zero. We’ve done this in blizzards … all kinds of weather.”