It's that time of year again. Miami's annual street party, Calle Ocho is back to celebrate Latin culture in all of its many manifestations. From food to music to creative ways to wear a flag, no other event offers a bigger venue for expats and visitors to show off their national pride and enjoy the very best that every country represented has to offer. Here are some highlights from this year's Calle Ocho street party.
In celebration of the 500 years of Spanish explorer and Fountain of Youth seeker Ponce de Leon's encounter with the lovely state of Florida, Calle Ocho will feature the world's largest sangria pitcher at the 16th Avenue stage. At 3 p.m., 500 liters of the beloved beverage that mixes red wine, fruit, juice and a dab of liquor will be distributed to revelers, making Calle Ocho that much wilder.
2. Sax Man
Celebrated saxophonist Ed Calle, who was a founding member of Palo!, the World Music 5, the Miami Saxophone Quartet and Fuego Caliente Latin Jazz Orchestra, wears the crown as Carnaval King 2013, making him perhaps the first of the royals to have a doctorate. The jazz master, who has played with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Gloria Estefan and Rihanna, also has his PhD from Nova Southeastern University in Higher Education Leadership. Please call him by his name, Carnaval King Dr. Ed Calle.
A fixture in the local music scene as well as an associate professor of music at Miami Dade College, the two-time Grammy Award nominee is honored by the role. "As a proud member and product of our community and one who respects and admires the great contributions made by all of the artists who have served as King or Queen, I am truly honored and humbled to serve as King of Carnaval Miami 2013," says Calle, who will take over the Univision 23/Univision Radio stage at 27 Avenue East to close the day with a high-energy jazz extravaganza.
Calle Ocho is not all reggaeton and salsa, but also will tip its hat to the musical patrimony of Latin America and the Caribbean. This year a folkloric stage at 13th Avenue North will present typical groups from Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba in native costumes performing classic and modern dances.
4. Get cooking
Celeb Chef Ingrid Hoffman will get you excited about the kitchen with a cooking demo at the Coca Cola stage at 22 Avenue North. The Colombian-American chef, known for her delectable dishes on the Food Network's "Simply Delicioso," will heat things up starting at 2 p.m. What's on the menu? "I will be cooking up a Coca Cola rice and a Lime Chicken with a quick avocado salsa," says the culinary diva.
5. Family Fun
Located at 25th Avenue by El Dorado, the Winn Dixie Family Fun Zone will feature Interactive games, face painting, cupcake decorating, product sampling, and shows by celebrity Chef Pepin.
A few blocks east at 23rd Avenue is the American Diabetes Health Fair to make you regret all the deep fried arepas and carne asada you have been downing with educational workshops, health screenings and an appearance by television personality Lucy Pereda, who has made it her mission on her Galavision show "En Casa de Lucy" to teach viewers how to cook light and clean and live life to the fullest.
With 16 stages, Calle Ocho is a non-stop musical adventure. Of course, make a pitstop at Pitbull's Mr. 305 stage as he present the United Nations (on 12th Avenue North) with a lineup to include Fat Joe, Kat DaLuna, El Cata, Elvis Crespo and Angel Y Kriz. Fans of freestyle should stay close to the WEPA FM stage (13th Court South) for performances by Johnny O, Nasty Boyz, Nyasis and Company B.
8. Mas Música
Salsa lovers can practice their pasitos all day long with Hansel y Raul and Willy Chirino at the Chivas Regal Open House 8 stage (17th Avenue North). La India, Carlos Oliva y Los Sobrinos del Juez and Carlos Manuel will have you shimmying at the Cubana de Television stage at 10th Street Road. The Mega 94.9 Stage (19th Avenue North) will have Dominican group Los Illegales and Puerto Rican reggaetoneros Alexis y Fido.
Scenes from the annual festival along 8th Street during Carnaval Miami. Photo: Tomas Loewy