Earth Angels: Eight-Hour Pageant Fetes East Village Gardens

Ritual delight
photo: Christopher Butt

In 1991, greening enthusiast Felicia Young conceived of a day-long pageant to weave together the Lower East Side's embattled community gardens, which were then threatened with extinction. The annual exercise in collective hoodoo worked (OK, a lawsuit helped too), and in 2002 Mayor Bloomberg signed off on a deal that preserved more gardens here than in any other neighborhood. But the parade marches on in celebration—and in memoriam for those gardens that were felled. Beyond the pomp—giant flower puppets, brightly costumed earth sprites, a samba band and Afro-Caribbean drummers, Indonesian dancers, plus the ever buoyant Hungry March Band—this is also one of the best ways to tour the area's 40-plus verdant sanctuaries. The parade kicks off at the Forsyth Garden, where elderly Chinese men air their hua mei (literally "beautiful eyebrow") songbirds in bamboo cages, then meanders through the East Village to tucked-away parks like Brisas del Caribe on East 3rd. If you get tired of the eight-hour route, hop over to one of the key performance spots, like the "Birth of Gaia" at La Plaza Cultural on East 9th, the flight of the "Butterfly Angel" at the 6th Street and Avenue B Garden, or the closing ceremony at Green Oasis on East 8th, where 50 live butterflies will be released.

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