The Miami Broward One Carnival Host Committee signed an agreement with Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens to stage the Miami Carnival for the next five years in the venue better known as the home of the Miami Dolphins.
On Sunday an estimated 50,000 revelers and other participants will transform the stadium with a blaze of color as the carnival presents its 26th annual edition.
Soca artist Machel Montano, the Grand Master, will receive the Cultural Achievement Award from the Miami Broward One Carnival Host Committee at the event. Other carnival-related activities continue through Tuesday.
Carnival started Oct. 3 with the Junior Carnival, held at the New Betty Ferguson Recreation Complex and won by Fun Generation Too portraying the theme “Somewhere in Africa: Great Kings and Queens.”
About 75 children from all over South Florida strutted about in a colorful display of cultural pride. It was the third straight win for Fun Generation Too and band leader Anthony Irish said he expects the adult version will sweep Sunday’s competition.
“I feel very, very good,” Irish said. “All the hard work paid off. In the adult competition, we are the band to beat.”
The adult Fun Generation took second place last year. Irish said the economic downturn made it a little harder to recruit people for the band this year but he was still expecting about 250 people will be playing mas with his organization Sunday.
Economic reasons or not, last year rival Miami and Broward carnival organizations joined forces. The latest merger of the two largest carnival factions is not the first but hopefully the last, said Asa Sealy, a director of the Miami Broward One Carnival Host Committee.
Sealy, who has been involved in carnival for seven years, said in addition to the two-county carnivals, several smaller ones tried to bring bacchanal to South Florida.
“Thus far it has been successful,” Sealy said of the joint venture. “There are personalities on either side but we put aside egos to make this thing work.”
So successful was last year’s festival, using combined resources, that it brought up new challenges. Miami Carnival outgrew its downtown Miami’s Bicentennial Park location, where a museum is now under construction and that might have forced the organizers to move regardless. The larger festival worsened a problem of too many music trucks, Sealy said.
“Bicentennial Park cannot accommodate the numbers,” Sealy said, referring to the 25,000 people estimated to have attended in 2009. “We also had an issue with the bands and the event ran over time and snagged traffic.”
This year, bands are allowed to bring only one music truck, which usually carries the DJ that leads the sections of kings, queens and masqueraders. But that still leaves 25 music trucks, each accompanied by hundreds of revelers. During the lead Carnival in Trinidad, a music truck can have 5,000 followers.
“I have seen 40-45 music trucks,” said Sealy. “That just makes the event too long. That’s just too much time on the road. With our new home at Sun Life, we don’t want any mistakes.”
As with a lot of Caribbean festivals, carnival finds its roots in religion and slavery, according to All Ah We, a California-based not-for-profit organization whose goal is to build bridges through cultures. Catholics in Italy threw a costume festival right before the first day of Lent. Because Catholics do not eat meat during Lent, they named the party carnevale, which means to put away meat. The carnevales caught on in other European cities. When Christopher Columbus came upon the islands and other Europeans followed, the French brought the fancy ball tradition to Trinidad.
By then, the slave trade was in full swing and the slaves were not allowed to participate in the festival so they started their own celebration but theirs had African influences of walking through villages, drumming and wearing of feathers, shells and masks.
Today, carnival is a fixture in the Caribbean and South America, with Brazil holding a festival as internationally known as the annual one in Trinidad. Some large cities in the U.S., Canada and England –where Caribbean people live– hold carnivals each year.
In South Florida, the bands are ready for the big show Sunday. Carnival Nationz-Miami held a band meeting Oct. 1 that looked like a board meeting of a small to mid-size corporation. During carnival, the bands tell a story with their costumes and music. Carnival Nationz-Miami, comprising about 450 people, will pay tribute to the Mighty Sparrow, the world’s leading calypsonian and social commentator.
In their mas camp in a strip mall in Hollywood, completed costumes hang on the wall. More than 20 people sit, stand and lean, listening to husband-and-wife band leaders Lesley-Ann Chan Tack and Jerome Chan Tack.
An agenda outlines the evening’s activities. Lesley-Ann Chan Tack takes the lead, going over the responsibilities of the section leaders and the marshals, music selection, distribution of a costume pickup schedule and a discussion about collecting outstanding funds for costumes — costs that can run into hundreds of dollars.
As soon as the meeting ends, the booze comes out, the music gets louder and a sea of orange, purple, green, blue, fuchsia and brown feathers, gold and silver sequins and skimpily cut polyester drown the space.
Lesley-Ann Chan Tack, who has been involved in the Miami Carnival for 22 years, is a second-year band leader. She calls her 450-people band a small one. For her and her husband, carnival is a way of life.
“From when I was so tall, I have been in carnival,” said Jerome Chan Tack, his hand showing a height about two feet off the floor. “It’s just what you do.”
Caribbean musical heavyweights International Ragga soca artist Bunji Garlin and his wife, three-time Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Road March Champion Fay-Ann Lyons, will headline the show. Other artists scheduled to appear include Traffik, JW Blaze, Shal Marshal, Rikki Jai, TC, Buffy, Camille, Sir Oungku, Red Hot Flames, Rebels Band, T&TEC Gayatones, Jashan Huges, Kaushun Band, Tizzy, Saphire, Neeshad Sultan, Oscar B, Andy Singh, CL, Blade.
Carolyn Guniss may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KHARY BRUYNING/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
COSTUME DESIGNERS: Rose Kelly, left and Cheryl Appoo from Heritage TNT Inc.