MANHATTAN — Thousands of revelers were already gathered along Fifth Avenue early Sunday morning in anticipation of the largest show of Puerto Rican heritage, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, which kicked off at 11 a.m.
Organizers said 80,000 participants were slated to perform along the parade's Fifth Avenue route, from 44th Street to 79th Street, and more than a million attendees were expected for the gathering's 56th year.
"It makes me proud to be here," Ruben Stricker, 60, from Mott Haven, said. "I love the tradition and the people. It's an opportunity to see people from all over Puerto Rico." He has been coming to every parade since 2007, when he moved to New York City from the island.
The parade was the culmination of a weekend-long set of events that celebrate Puerto Rican culture, including outdoor musical events, the 116th Street Festival, and local parties.
"It reminds me of home," said Anarosa Nazario, 37, a Puerto Richan who was coming from Flatbush for her tenth year. "The food's great, the people are great. Everyone is very friendly and happy to be here," she said.
Actress Chita Rivera had been selected to serve as the parade's Grand Marshal, and several mayoral hopefuls, as well as Mayor Michael Bloomberg, were in attendance.
"It's not like the St. Patty's day parade," said Diana Vanegas, 35, from College Point. "You become friends with complete strangers who are here to watch the parade with you."