LAUDERHILL — Marking its sixth year, the Broward Caribbean Carnival has become an exceptional cultural experience and spectacular display of colors, cuisine and costumes.
Last Sunday, Oct. 12, many people woke up early to prepare their masquerade costumes, grab a flag from one of the 25 Caribbean islands, and head to the annual event to revel in a full day of fun, festivities and national pride.
Although meteorologists throughout South Florida predicted that scattered rain storms would drench the day, it didn't stop thousands from coming out to the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill.
Miami Caribbean Carnival also took place on the same day at Bicentennial Park in downtown Miami.
The Broward event faced a few challenges in recent years. Leaders of other cities complained that the crowd was too large and left behind too much debris. But the president of the carnival, Andy Ansola, said he believes this venue in Lauderhill fit the celebration well.
“I’m glad the event has moved to a regional park in culturally diverse central Broward, giving it more of an opportunity to evolve into a celebration for all people, not just those from the Caribbean,” Ansola stated.
In 2007, just a month before the celebration, the organizers of the Broward Caribbean Carnival were forced to relocate from parks in Miramar and Sunrise due to complaints about over-crowding, parking and trash problems.
Placed in a desperate situation that could have left an irreparable dent in the carnival, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission last year decided to allow the celebration to occur at Lockhart Stadium.
This year, however, Broward Caribbean Carnival decided to call the Central Broward Regional Park home.
Feathered and jeweled adorned costumes displaying bright exuberant colors along with the euphonious sounds of the Caribbean kicked off the celebrations for the day.
Though the programmed events were a few hours behind schedule, the whole day commenced smoothly with a variety of family oriented events, performances by top Soca Artists such as Krosfyah, Calypsonians such as Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, and steelpan bands along with a host of vendors demonstrating trinkets and merchandise representing the vibrant flare of the Caribbean culture.
Carnival day cannot be complete without “playing mas,’’ which includes an organized group (band) made up of participants who pay for elaborate costumes fashioned by a designer. The costumed participants (masqueraders) dance through the streets to the sounds of a steel band, a soca band or a deejay.
Dania Beach resident and long time masquerader Gayelle Felix, 36 of the Fun Generation band, has been ‘playing mas’ her whole life, and has continued to do so for the 12 years since she relocated to South Florida.
She joined The Fun Generation band, which has quickly become the leading band in the masquerade competitions, walking away with 1st place since the beginning of Broward Caribbean Carnival.
Felix hasn’t missed a beat ever since.
“Carnival is such a beautiful way for all of the Caribbean to come together and share a common bond within our culture. There are very few places and events in Broward County alone that allow us Caribbeans to express our culture,” Felix told the South Florida Times.
Fourteen bands displayed their cultural and national pride, representing islands from the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Antigua, Barbuda to Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, Haiti, and even Grenada and Barbados.
Fourteen judges were on site to select which band was going to walk away with the title of The Band of the Year. Prizes were to be awarded in the subcategories of Queen and King Costumes, Female/ Male individual costumes, and overall theme portrayal for the entire band.
The winners had not been announced as of press time.
Photo by Khary Bruyning. A dancer performs at the Broward Caribbean Carnival.