The “Beouf Gras” floats down Canal Street during the Rex
parade on Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 2005; the last
parade before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Urban parades are a form of public celebration in which both the marchers and the spectators express their pride and solidarity in aspects of their identity, such as ethnicity, country, class, and religion. In the 17th and 18th centuries, parades were commonly military reviews restricted to men, which included heavy drinking or commemorations of important national events, such as Independence Day. Ethnic parades began in New York in 1766 when Irish Protestant soldiers celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. By the 1820s and 1830s, a St. Patrick’s Day, run by Irish Roman Catholics became an annual event. In Chicago, parades on July 4th and St. Patrick’s Day became annual events in the 1830s and 1840s.


Celebrating the defeat of Germany
in World War II, New Yorkers welcome
GeneralDwight D. Eisenhower in the
largest parade ever held in the city,
June 1945.
Parades have often been held to honor returning war heroes. In June 1945, more than four million New Yorkers welcomed General Dwight D. Eisenhower during his 37-mile journey through the streets of New York. It remains the largest parade crowd in the city’s history.






One of the many people dressed in colorful costumes for the
2001 West Indian- American Day Carnival in Brooklyn.
Mardi Gras parades have long been an integral part of New Orleans’ history. Held on the day before Lent, they encourage participants to masquerade, dress outrageously and turn the normal power structure upside-down. Halloween parades in New York have also become an annual night of irreverence. As the population of urban America has changed over the past 40 years, parades celebrating unity among immigrants and descendants from nations throughout the world have grown in size and popularity. Parades like the Lunar New Year celebrations in Chinatown and Flushing and the West Indian American Day Carnival in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, are integral not only to the lives of people from these communities, but also to the fabric of the entire city. 

Margarita Madera and her daughter
Michelle take part in the Dominican
Day Parade in New York City in 1989.


Lion dancers perform during Chinese New Year
festivities on Mott Street in New York’s Chinatown,
February 7, 1997.