Photo caption: Costumed participants make their way along Eastern Parkway in the Brooklyn borough of New York during the West Indian Day Parade Monday Sept. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
Since last fall, Brooklyn designer Marlon Smart has received hundreds of orders for colorful handmade costumes for people to wear in this year's West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn.
But his handiwork will not be on displaythis year.
"It is, was and has been highly devastating," said Smart, the head designer at his business, Designed By Marlon Smart.
On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced all large-scale events in the city through September will be canceled because of the coronavirus.
That includes the West Indian Day Parade and the related J'ouvert celebration, extravaganzas that pack Brooklyn streets in a joyful celebration of Caribbean culture every Labor Day.
Beside the health concerns of having people packed together, de Blasio said the space is needed for the city's open streets and outdoor dining programs.
"They are getting fresh air and recreation the right way, with a lot of devotion to social distancing and face coverings, that can't happen if events are interfering with the ways we have set things up, so it just makes more sense not to have them," the mayor said.
Smart said he met virtually with other designers before the announcement, and they agreed hat for their health and the health of others, they would not participate in this year's parade.
By then, half of Smart's work for the year had been completed.
"What is hard is that we put a lot of money up front. I have spent about nearly $20,000 just getting stuff ready, buying materials, doing prototypes," Smart said.
The orders he and other designers placed this year will be for next year's event, but that will create some hardship.
"That means there is no earnings or income for 2020, so it's a big hit," Smart said. "And some of our concern is, what if 2020 comes and we are in the same position."
Shola Thompson, the founder of Carnival Hunters, which plans tourist trips to celebrations like the parade, has faith businesses like hers will bounce back.
"People that have ever experience Carnival and ever experienced the freedom and the bliss that it all entails, that is why the industry will never die because that is uniquely Caribbean," Thompson said.
The West Indian American Day Carnival Association said it is planning virtual activities to celebrate Caribbean culture, and is requesting a meeting with the mayor to "discuss all options.”