Pageant fetes river’s revival, warns of its fragility
BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | The 315-mile-long Hudson River harbors some interesting creatures as it flows from Lake Tear of the Clouds in the Adirondack Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, but none as dazzling as those who came to honor it on May 12 in the annual Hudson River Pageant.
In a swirl of imaginative costumes and vivid colors, participants paraded along the waterfront from Battery Park City to Greenwich Village, stopping every few blocks for dancing, music and poetry readings. At the Christopher St. Pier, there was an oyster planting ceremony and dance. At Charles St., fish were released into the river. The parade ended at Horatio St. with a boat dance and harmonic-chant concert.
The pageant is an amalgamation of exuberant artistic invention and rituals, music and incantations borrowed from many cultures. The many community and scientific groups who study and tend the river and its inhabitants exhort the audience to be aware of how politics and economics have affected the waterway and to be its voice when needed.
Forty years after the federal Clean Water Act was passed, the river is healthier than it has been in many years, but there are still pollution problems. The Atlantic sturgeon, which can grow to 14 feet and is the river’s largest fish, was once common in the Hudson. It is now endangered.
Pageant director Felicia Young founded the nonprofit Earth Celebrations in 1991 to engage artists and the arts in the service of ecological awareness. She first staged the Hudson River Pageant in 2009 to call attention to the native species and habitats of the Hudson River and to address climate change.
In preparing costumes and puppets for the pageant, Young and her team hold community workshops and work with students who will be the stewards of the river in the future. Art is a means to heighten their awareness.