Heavy rains were pouring down at 7am as organizers of Florida’s Great Parade were setting up. The weather report showed definite storm showers for the entire day. Florida’s Head Shliach Rabbi Abraham Korf immediately wrote into the Ohel, asking the Rebbe for a special blessing for great weather and great success for the Sunshine State’s Great Parade.
Within minutes, the sun broke through the clouds and incredibly, the thousands of men, women and children were able to enjoy a spectacular Lag B’omer celebration with sunshine and great weather.
As the massive crowd gathered at the parade starting point on Hallandale Beach Blvd just east of US1, each guest was handed a sky blue t-shirt with the beautiful colored Florida Great Parade logo with adorning palm trees emblazed on the front.
With hundreds of bedazzled spectators lining the route due to the street’s closure, the parade of families, marching bands, dancing clowns and colorful floats made its way east to a giant lot generously made possible by Espeban Koffmon and Yontan Laoui of Chateau Group. Jewish music filled the streets while kids & adults waved an array of colorful signs with messages such as Jewish pride, keeping kosher and Moshiach.
The parade was followed by a special rally for the children. A giant tent was set up to protect the thousands in attendance from the scorching Florida sun. Bottles of water were distributed throughout the day at no cost by members of Hatzalah.
In addition to the children each giving charity and reciting the 12 Pesukim, Rabbis Abraham Korf, Raphael Tennenhaus, Sholom Lipskar and Leib Schapiro each shared with the crowd a brief inspirational holiday message. The rally concluded with a remarkable high flying acrobatic show.
Once the rally concluded, music was heard throughout the venue as the children ran about enjoying many mechanical and inflatable rides including a giant zip line and roller coaster, all free of charge. Musical performances included Dr Laz and Choni Teitelbaum on the keyboard. Hundreds of participants also had the opportunity to don Tefillin at a designated Mivtzaim booth.
Attendees were astounded that even the rides were all free. “Only Chabad can pull this off”, shouted a guest visiting with his family from New York.
Florida’s amazing Great Parade was organized by Florida Shluchim Rabbis Shmuly Gutnick, Pinny Andrusier, Mordy Feiner and Mendy Levy. The event which enabled families to enjoy a wonderful fun filled day at no charge was funded mostly by the generosity of the Shluchim of Florida under the leadership of Rabbi Korf and various members of the community. In addition to free water, even the food items were partially subsidized and sold at a minimal cost.
The Lag B’omer Parade, usually held when the Jewish festival falls on Sunday, originated in Brooklyn, New York in 1956, highlighted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson addressing the crowd from a special grandstand and waving to the throng of marchers as they passed the main stage.
In keeping with tradition and in a great show of unity, many cities around the globe today host the Great Parade. In addition to South Florida, this year’s Great Parades included New York, Los Angeles, Moscow, Russia and Melbourne, Australia.
The next time Lag B’omer falls out on Sunday is the year 2024. “Moshiach better have been long here”, quipped Rabbi Pinny.
Special Thanks to all the Florida Shluchim who helped sponsor the event and to all the volunteers from Chabad Aventura, California Club Chabad, Machon Menachem Smicha, the Chaya Aydel Seminary, Levi Tennenhaus and Zalman Korf.