“It's all about unity.. togetherness..Carnival time we love de jammin’… All of we … collectively… the bacchanal time we start the fete-in’.”
—Destra Garcia, “Fly”
Taken from the words of famed soca artist Destra Garcia, this line from her hit song “Fly” now symbolizes the biggest merger to hit the South Florida Caribbean community in recent years.
The Miami and Broward Caribbean Carnivals, celebrated separately but on the same day, forcing people to choose between them for six years, have finally come together to create one major event.
On Sunday, Oct. 11, the newly created Miami-Broward One Carnival Host Committee will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Miami Carnival at Bicentennial Park in Miami.
Organizers of both the Miami Carnival Inc. (MCI) and the Broward Caribbean Carnival Inc. (BCCI) have come to terms and signed an agreement to create the One Carnival Host Committee Initiative. This committee consists of four members of the Broward carnival and four members of the Miami carnival.
Andy Ansola, president/CEO of Broward Caribbean Carnival and a member of the board of directors of the new committee, has pushed this effort for the past two years, and said he is ecstatic that it has finally come to fruition.
“This is something that the people have been asking for a long time. I’ve been pushing for this for…it seems like forever,” Ansola told the South Florida Times.
There was an even stronger desire for unification among the organizers of both carnivals after the untimely death of the former CEO of the Miami Caribbean Carnival, Selman Lewis, less than a month before the 2008 Caribbean Carnival.
Gayelle Felix, longtime carnival attendee and masquerader of both Miami and Broward carnivals since 1996, is encouraged by the “merger” and the impact it will have on the South Florida Caribbean community.
Although she voiced concerns about the merger’s sustainability, Felix said she looks forward to one united carnival.
“I'm very excited; I can't wait. I think it’s long awaited and long overdue, and we're already making plans for the big day,” Felix said. “I just hope the same issues that caused the division before don’t arise again.”
For six years, the Broward and Miami carnivals – both featuring parades, food, costumes and music – took place on the same day, at roughly the same time.
The Miami Carnival began 25 years ago in Miami Gardens. In recent years, it has drawn more than 100,000 people to Bicentennial Park in
In 2003, the Miami Carnival’s organizers held the event in Homestead, causing many Broward attendees to stop going because they felt it was too far away, according to published reports.
A group launched its own carnival in Broward. The group later split, and began running the Broward Caribbean Carnival.
Critics have long said the two groups should join forces and work together on a two-county event or series of carnival events. Until now, however, the two sides could not work out an agreement.
The collaboration was confirmed on May 11 by Ruthven William, chairman and founding member of MCI (the Miami carnival); and Mario Zamora, director and founding member of BCCI (the Broward carnival).
Glenn Joseph, chairman of this groundbreaking committee, is extremely optimistic about the collaboration and the terms of agreement.
“I look forward to the completion of a very successful event and having this group take Carnival to new heights,” Joseph told the South Florida Times.
The new merger not only demonstrates a sense of unity for masqueraders, band leaders and promoters but is also financially cost effective for sponsorship opportunities.
Getting consistent sponsorship with the two divided carnivals was difficult.
“Having two carnivals had some sponsors standing on the fence. It put a lot of sponsors who wanted to support Carnival in a tough situation to have to pick between the two. They were waiting for this to happen,” Ansola added.
Marlon A. Hill, Esq., legal counsel to the One Carnival Host Committee initiative, said he can see what a strong impact this unification will have on South Florida and its Caribbean constituents.
“This One Carnival initiative will bolster the (Caribbean-American) community’s continued development in making more significant contributions to the growth and quality of life in South Florida,” Hill said.
As the One Carnival Host Committee prepares to embark on a newfound endeavor, the South Florida community will be watching and, organizers hope, participating.
The unification committee also seeks to take its influence beyond the streets. By 2011, the committee looks forward to implementing “The Art of Carnival” in the social studies curriculum within the Dade and Broward Public school system.
“This carnival has the potential for being the biggest Caribbean event in North America,” Ansola said. “We're really looking forward to the community support and endorsement so we can take Carnival to the next level.”
Photo by Khary Bruyning.