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Carnival connects cultures

That first carnival had five bands and a costume parade, featuring people dancing behind trucks that were playing music. About 1,500 spectators came out to Troy for the carnival.

The next year's carnival drew about 3,000 people, Burke said. In recent years, it has been held in Schenectady, and the crowd has reached as many as 10,000 people.

Although carnivals are big in the Caribbean, and especially in Trinidad, Burke didn't grow up with this kind of carnival. Jamaica is a little different than other Caribbean countries, he noted, because of the African influence there. But he still felt a sense of connection at the carnival.

"We are one. We are the same people," he said. "We just speak different languages."

He believes that sense of community is the primary reason people come to the carnival from all over the Northeast " he's seen people from Baltimore, Boston, Hartford and even Canada at the carnival.

"It's a cultural connection," he said. "It's a way to express yourself and let your hair down. You meet people and make friends."

The carnival strives to be family friendly, with no alcohol allowed. There is plenty of dancing, food and of course, the costume parade. This year's event will also feature the Chosen Few Reggae Band, raffles and Calypsonian from the Virgin Islands.

Burke thinks this year's carnival will be the best yet. The group recently received its 501c-3 status, which opens the door for more funding. It recently started a Web site, www.carama.org, to promote the carnival.

He encourages people to come and enjoy some good food and camaraderie " and to be prepared to dance.

The festival runs from noon to 8:30 p.m. Admission is free.""

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