Miami Carnival 2021: ‘We are excited about this comeback’
Revelers get painted during a past J’ouvert, one of the activities planned as part of Miami Carnival. (Photo courtesy of Miami Broward One Carnival)
Miami Carnival is leaving behind the virtual version of 2020 and embracing the splendor of the occasion in 2021 – with a parade, live performances, masquerade bands, competitions and a full celebration of Caribbean cultures.
The two organizing groups, the Miami Broward One Carnival Host Committee and the South Florida Carnival Bandleaders Association, have scheduled the 37th edition of the beloved community event on Sunday, Oct. 10, during Columbus Day weekend, at the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds located at 10901 SW 24th St. There will also be a string of activities leading up to this date in Broward County.
Among organizers and participants, excitement is the operative word.
“Last year, the [in-person] Carnival did not happen, and people understood it was the right thing to do. This year, because we haven’t had a chance to come together as a community and celebrate different cultures from the Caribbean, [so] people are very excited,” said Matthew Waddell, director of GenX Carnival, one of 20 participating masquerade bands.
“We are excited about this comeback,” said Connie W. Kinnard, vice president of Multicultural Tourism & Development at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We realize that the whole virus situation is much better than before, although not totally over. People are getting vaccinated, being more cautious. So we are welcoming the Miami Carnival.”
(Video courtesy of Miami Broward One Carnival)
With the pandemic not totally over, what should revelers expect in terms of safety at an event where closeness is the norm and social distance the exception? The producers behind the Miami Carnival announced they have been working with medical and park department officials from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Of course, mask wearing and vaccinations are recommended.
“With any event, not just Miami Carnival, people will have to take the necessary steps to feel safe and comfortable. The organizers are going to put in place measures, as much as they possibly can, to enforce and encourage safety guidelines for participating in the event,” Kinnard said.
Impact of the Carnival on South Florida
Miami Carnival has been around for almost four decades, showcasing the city and helping to connect the community and its different cultures.
“This area of Miami and South Florida is so diverse from a standpoint of our Caribbean family and roots,” Kinnard said. “The carnival means a lot to this area.”
The economic impact is important, too.
“We see an increase in hotel occupancy during that time. We know from surveys that a lot of visitors are from out of town,” Kinnard said. “This translates to hotel rooms, rental cars, people spending money in restaurants, in the community.
“Some events like the Carnival are what we call destination drivers. It means that people come to that destination because of the event. The fact that people plan to come to Miami just because of the Carnival is a big deal for us.”
This year, the Miami Carnival website does offer some rules and guidance about traveling for the event: “If you are planning to travel to attend Miami Carnival, we ask that you do so responsibly and practice CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] safety guidelines…
“The Federal Government requires that all travelers to the U.S. produce proof of a recent negative test for COVID-19 … prior to entry and within three days before their flights,” it states, among other regulations.
A string of events
Before the Miami Carnival parade and concert, multiple events are planned at Central Broward Regional Park, 3700 NW 11th Place, Lauderhill, starting with the Junior Carnival for kids on Saturday, Oct. 2, and the Panorama event on Friday, Oct. 8. The Panorama event will feature a steel band competition and the crowning of the Carnival King and Queen.
Saturday, Oct. 9, will offer a J’ouvert celebration, akin to a large street party.
“It is an opportunity for people to come and celebrate,” said Yvette Harris, public relations director for Miami Carnival. “It’s a time where people get covered in oil, paint … a festive opportunity for people to be free.”
The main event, on Oct. 10, will showcase masquerade bands from the Caribbean islands, New York, and, of course, Miami. Among the bands expected to participate are: One Island Mas Band, Break-Awae’ Kru Mas, Dingolay Mas, K-Paya Carnival, Party Room Squad, Revel Nation Carnival, Savage Mas the Band, and Ti Chapo.
“It will be a celebration of music, culture, pageantry, with colorful and elaborate costume garbs,” said Waddell, of the GenX Carnival band. “Each band will represent 13 to 14 individual beautiful feather costumes inspired by Caribbean culture.”
Oct. 10 will also be a concert day. The carnival is expected to start at 11 a.m., with a soca concert scheduled at 3 p.m.
“There will be a parade going during the concert. It will be a nice melting pot of music performances and celebration of Caribbean heritage, a real opportunity to share and people learning from one another from different Caribbean backgrounds,” Harris said. “We have artists and bands coming from the Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Haiti, St-Lucia, Jamaica … All of them will have the opportunity to perform after a year of COVID.”
Big names such as Wyclef Jean have highlighted the event in past years. The Haitian music star took part in the parade in 2017.
There will also be a display of Caribbean foods and drinks and arts and crafts.
“If you want to have a taste of everything Caribbean in one shot,” Waddell said, “the Carnival is where you need to be.”
WHAT: Miami Carnival 2021 main event
WHEN: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10
WHERE: Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds, 10901 SW 24th St., Miami
COST: $40 admission; free for children younger than 12