When elephants fly: Dumbo Drop Block Party returns May 21

dumbo drop elephants
Thousands of elephants will fill the air in Dumbo this weekend at the annual Dumbo Drop Block Party and fundraiser.
Phil Greenberg

They can fly!

Thousands of toy elephants will fill the air in Dumbo this weekend for the Dumbo Drop Block Party, an annual neighborhood celebration and fundraiser for the area’s Title 1 schools. Each $20 entry gives the participant a little toy elephant entered in the drop, with the chance to win a number of prizes if their parachuted pachyderm, dropped from a Washington Street rooftop, lands on a target on the street below.

“We were having a lot of conversations around community, and school districts that serve the area, and wanting to really put the fun and popularity of Dumbo to work for the good of the local community,” said Alexandria Sica, president of the DUMBO Business Improvement District.

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Thousands of elephants will parachute down to Washington Street from surrounding rooftops during the Dumbo Drop on May 21. Each $20 entry is a chance to win a number of Dumbo-based prizes. Phil Greenberg

The elephant drop was inspired by the rubber duck races hosted as fundraisers in the suburbs surrounding New York City.

“The Washington Street backdrop is just so iconic, the idea of having some whimsy and delight for one day to raise a lot of significant funds for our Title I schools … it just came together very nicely,” Sica said.

Elephants first descended on Dumbo in 2017, but this year marks just the fourth in-person event, which has been hosted virtually for the last two years because of the pandemic. Two separate drops — the “classic,” at 5 pm, and the “Disco Drop,” with illuminated elephants, at 7:30 pm — are just part of the fun to come this weekend.

Starting at 3pm, the afternoon will be filled with live entertainment, from jazz and reggae musicians to jugglers and gallery tours. While a normal block party might have some lemonade and hamburgers to nosh on, Dumbo Drop’s refreshments are a little something more, with specials available at local restaurants like Oddfellows Ice Cream, Seamore’s, Evil Twin Brewing, and more. Every year, the Dumbo BID commissions a different local artist to design their merchandise, parachutes, and posters.

For 2022’s Dumbo Drop, artist Jaimie Walker created a colorful, seasonal design to adorn each elephant as they glide to the ground and each T-shirt sold at the event.

Each participant gets to take home their little souvenir elephant, and for an extra $5, can sit down with some craft supplies and a plain white parachute to decorate. Every dollar raised goes right to PS 307 The Daniel Hale Williams Elementary and the Dock Street Middle School — whose talented students will also be performing at the Drop.

The annual fundraiser is an integral part of the schools’ ability to run fun and, most importantly, free programs for their students, most of whom live at or near the poverty line. This year, the PS 307 PTA, who help to create programs and distribute the money raised, are also hoping to get enough donations to purchase Smart Boards for the school’s teachers.

Dedicated droppers can enter more than once for a better chance at one of the day’s coveted prizes — the first place Dumbo Drop winner will receive a $1,000 shopping spree in Dumbo, and the Disco Drop frontrunner will be gifted a ten-person rooftop party atop Time Out Market, complete with VIP seating, a $500 bar tab, and Fornino’s Pizza.

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Elephant enthusiasts of any age can pay to decorate their souvenir elephant and parachute at the Dumbo Drop Block Party on May 21. Phil Greenberg

Usually hosted on a Friday, this year’s weekend Drop will hopefully capture the attention of a new audience, Sica said.

“It’s an experimental year, where we moved the event from Friday to Saturday to see if we could actually capture those tourist dollars,” Sica said. Arguably one of the best-known neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Dumbo is flooded with visitors strolling along the waterfront every weekend.

“More importantly, [Saturday] gives people a whole day to come down and engage,” she continued. “We have a lot of people who are repeat supporters and repeat elephant adoptees, is what we call them.”

The block party is a welcome sight after to difficult years of isolation and cancelled events, Sica said, and it’s especially needed by the schools, who have taken a hard hit during the pandemic.

“Coming off of a pandemic, this is certainly … the money was missed, the virtual event was certainly no elephants flying in the sky,” she said. “And so we’re really hoping to fundraise as much as possible this year to get the much-needed support to the schools.”