Ancient and modern blended on the streets of Manhattan Sunday as thousands thronged to the annual Persian parade.
Organizer Cyrus Assadi, one of the parade’s founders, said this year’s event brought Persian-Americans from New York, California, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut and across the country to celebrate a culture that encompasses several nations and faiths.
The parade, which included 17 floats, music and dancers, began in 2004 in response to the climate after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Assadi said.
The parade is “a way to show the culture of the Persian people is not related to terrorism,” said Assadi, a 74-year-old surgeon who stayed in the United States after the revolution in his home country of Iran in the 1970s.
Organizers said last year’s parade attracted 200,000 people.
While centered in modern-day Iran, the Persian culture encompasses different countries and religions.
Daniel Khakshoor, 63, a chemist from Great Neck, wore a yarmulke as he marched holding one end of a banner for Persian Jews.
“We are part of Iran and we celebrate with them,” Khakshoor said.
Muallim Sho, 49, an accountant who came to Brooklyn from Khorog, Tajikistan, said he came to the parade to be with his people.
“We are part of the Iranian nation,” Sho said. Modern-day Tajikistan was part of the Persian empire, which left its mark on the culture, he said.
“We are proud to be part of this tradition,” Sho said.
The parade is usually held earlier in the year, near Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which fell on March 21 this year, but organizers said they were unable to get a parade permit closer to the holiday this year.
Tina Nikakhtar, 20, came from her college in North Potomac, Maryland, as part of a dance group to perform a traditional Persian dance focused on a flat straw basket used to harvest rice in the spring.
“It’s just fun getting involved with your culture, showing the world that Iran is a beautiful country with so much tradition,” Nikakhtar said.
Though the parade was apolitical, politics showed up. One float said on it “Let’s make Iran great again,” in apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan about American greatness.
“It’s a little bit saddening to hear politicians saying that it’s an evil country,” said Leila Madani, a 40-year-old Iranian-American schoolteacher from Manhattan who came to watch the parade. “You go there and everyone wants to come to America,” Madani said.
The parade wound its way down Madison Avenue from 38th Street to 26th Street at Madison Square Park, where a street was blocked off. There, Persian food vendors treated customers to tastes from home as smoke from grilled meats wafted above.
Great Neck-based Colbeh served traditional grilled dishes of chicken, called joujeh, and koobideh, a ground beef delicacy.
Farhad Mohammadieh, owner of the store Super Jordan in Syosset, sold Persian treats including cookies, green plums and Persian ice cream sandwiches flavored with rose water, saffron and pistachios, and said he was glad to be providing traditional foods that are hard to find here.
“It’s a great day,” Mohammadieh said.