With smiles and cheers, music and dancing, a sea of revelers decked out in the red, white and blue of Puerto Rico's flag stood along Fifth Avenue on Sunday to celebrate the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
"I like to see the people with all the energy they have,'' said 68-year-old Jorge Malave of West New York, N.J., a regular at the parade who was born in Puerto Rico and came to the United States when he was 10.
Claudia Albarado was lined up next to the parade route by 8:30 a.m., hours before the start, to stake out a good spot. The 65-year-old, born in Puerto Rico and living in Union City, N.J., was wearing a T-shirt that said ``When I die and Heaven does not want me, take me straight to Puerto Rico.''
"I see all my people here. I'm very happy,'' she said. The annual event is known for bringing out huge crowds _
Sunday's parade-goers stood several people deep to watch as it makes its way up Fifth Avenue with thousands of marchers, numerous floats, celebrities and politicians taking part.
Singer Marc Anthony was named as the king of the parade and was greeted by raucous cheers as he and wife Jennifer Lopez made their way up the parade route.
NBCNew York asked Marc Anthony about the honor: “How does it feel to be king?
“It’s an unbelievable honor, I’m just speechless right now to be quite honest.”
He took on the role after actor Osvaldo Rios dropped out of the parade.
Rios had been named as the parade's international godfather but critics called for a boycott because he has a domestic violence conviction.
Jeannette LaBoy was so thrilled to see Anthony, the man she called "he king of Puerto Rico,'' she said, "I almost lost my voice.''
The 39-year-old school lunch helper from Brooklyn said her family was Puerto Rican. ``My mother passed away and I want to represent for her,'' LaBoy said.
A host of politicians turned out, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. David Paterson and gubernatorial hopefuls Andrew Cuomo and Rick Lazio.
Dolores Padilla, wearing a red, white, and blue eye mask with feathers attached, brought her 2-year-old son from the Bronx to see the parade.
Her little boy Zavian, who is both Puerto Rican and Dominican, was perched on her boyfriend's shoulder, a tiny Puerto Rican flag clutched in his fist.
"I want him to be proud,'' Padilla said.
The Puerto Rican parade, an annual event in New York since 1958, has grown to be one of the city's largest.