September 25, 2020

The 2020 Dominican Day Parade was held Sunday August 9th. Traditionally the parade is held in early August right along 6th Avenue in New York City. Yet, as with many events in 2020 organizers had to pivot in order for the show to go on.  So, they went virtual. Rather than bands, floats and flags parading down Avenue of the Americas we were treated to a different kind of celebration. In some instances, one more intimate and focused in its purpose yet broad in reach – celebrate the Dominican spirit.

Hosts with the Most

The event was hosted by actress Celines Toribio and actor/comedian Ruperto Vanderpool. First, consider the level of difficulty here. Building a rapport and feeding off your co-host over Zoom is more challenging than doing so when your seated next to one another.  Yet, the chemistry was apparent from the outset of the telecast. The seamless back and forth got us thinking these two deserve their own morning talk show. Add to that, Vanderpool’s comedic timing and penchant for memorable characters – cue El Bachatero. One couldn’t help but be entertained. Yet, this year’s event also stayed true to its purpose – the community.

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Celebrating Community

Yes, the 2020 festivities included customary appearances from elected officials. Governor Cuomo, Mayor DeBlasio and Senator Gillibrand paid their respects. As did Dominican Congressman Adriano Espaillat.

However, the parade has always had a community focus. In year’s past, when the festivities were live. Attendees needed to be fortunate enough to be near the grandstand to see the honorees or tune in from home. This year’s virtual event allowed all who streamed it to get a closer look at the honorees and listen to their stories and words of thanks.  

Among them frontline workers who are battling the COVID-19 crisis. Including Dr. Miguelina German. During the crisis, Dr. German observed that there were mothers at her hospital who couldn’t nurse for various reasons and children in the pediatric practices who needed to eat. She went about creating infant survival kits that include diapers, wipes and if a family requested it, formula. German told Eyewitness News “It just became this perfect storm where really the infants were forgotten,” German said. “Although the mayor did a wonderful job committing to providing food to the department of education, that didn’t include babies.”

Also honored was Dr. Denise Nuñez, a pediatric ICU physician, who volunteers with Somos Community Care to administer COVID-19 tests. Dr. Nunez also told Eyewitness News. “I’m just grateful that we are here and able to celebrate somehow. Especially going through what we went through and being in the ICU and seeing so many people just pass away,” Nuñez said. “It’s just the fact that we’re celebrating, it’s good. I’m very happy.”

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Yet, the parade also brought star power. In the form of former MLB slugger Alex Rodriguez, Queen of Merengue, Millie Quesada who performed on the telecast and actress Zoe Saldana. Who all weighed in on celebrating their Dominican pride and spirit.

Breaking Barriers

This year’s parade was the first time it was broadcast virtually. One may view that as limiting. However, co-host Ruperto Vanderpool, stated it best. “Back in the 80’s the parade was one block (laughs). Then we got ten blocks. Now that it is virtual, we got people from Australia and Europe tuning in.” The format allowed the parade to go beyond New York and illustrating what guest and honoree Zoe Saldana stated, making it a day in which “todos somos Dominicanos”.

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