Five reasons we still love Calle Ocho

Calle Ocho, one of Miami’s signature events, takes over the streets of Little Havana this Sunday. Close to a million people will head to the historic heart of the Cuban expatriate community (which now has been ceded to different immigrant communities) for a street festival that celebrates Latin culture. While some may grumble about the traffic, noise and crowds, there is always much to celebrate at this event, which has been hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana for the past 39 years. Let us refresh your memory about all the things that make Calle Ocho the biggest Latin party in America. 

Luis Enrique

1. MUSIC

At its heart, Calle Ocho is just an enormous free music festival, complete with seven different stages each featuring a day-long nonstop line-up of musical acts from around the world and down the street. Highlights from the Kiwanis Stage at 12th Avenue include Hansel Y Raul, Carlos Oliva, Ed Calle, Andy Garcia and the Cineson Allstars. At the YipTV stage at 10th Avenue north catch La Tropicalisima, Las Nenas de Caña, el Grupo Bongo, Kapade de Centroamerica. The Telemundo Stage Pep Boys at 23rd Avenue North will be jamming out with Oro Solido, Laura Flores, Carlos Manuel, Jonael Santiago, and more. The Coca Cola Stage at 22nd Avenue North will feature Fuego, J. Quiles, Miss Yaya, Mickey & Joell, El Chevo and Ralphy Dreamz. The Mega Stage at 8th Avenue will feature Grupo Treo, Papayo, Plan B, Archangel, Chino y Nacho, Baby Rasta y Gringo, Luis Enrique, Nati Natasha, Ken Y and Alexis & FidoThe Univision 23 stage is located at 27th Avenue and will feature Exiel, Jacob Forever, Lefty Perez and more. The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald stage located on the north side of 24th Avenue will feature acts like Conjunto Tropicana, Monterosa, EC Salsero and Jay Ruiz. 

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2. DANCING

Obviously there will be plenty of dancing – people getting their merengue on to Oro Solido, salsa lovers burning it up with Luis Enrique, etc. – but this year at the Coca Cola Stage the dancing will take things up a notch with final competition of the Share the Movimiento contest, which begins at 1 p.m. The three finalists – the Artistic Precision Dancers from Arthur and Polly Mays Conservatory for the Arts; the Cobra Charmers of South Miami Senior High and Fusion Dance Troupe from Ferguson High School –which were chosen by public vote, and will compete to win up to $5,000 toward a community cause of their preference. Nick Garcia of “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 11, Mack from Y100, and Kassandra Montandon, Miss Carnaval Miami 2015, will act as judges for the contest. 

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3. FOOD

If you are on day three of your juice cleanse, Calle Ocho is going to put the breaks on your clean living the moment you get a whiff of some tacos al pastor or a buttery cheese-filled arepa. The bounty of Latin American street food will be on display and you will be unable to resist the temptation, so bring lots of cash and be prepared to enjoy a banquet of pinchos, fritura and other greasy delicacies. 

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4. WORLD RECORDS

Every year the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana tries to outdo itself by besting some Guinness World Record. Past years’ attempts include unfurling the world’s largest flag, longest conga line, largest cigar and the largest piñata. This year participants are going to be asked to help break the Guinness World Record for most signatures on a birthday card in honor of the Kiwanis Club’s 40-year anniversary. Kiwanis Club supporters can also visit http://carnavalmiami.com/happy-birthday-kiwanis/ to sign the card digitally if they cannot visit during the Calle Ocho Festival. The record-breaking will take place at the  El Dorado parking lot (2475 SW Eight St.) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 

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5. THE KING!

 This year, the reining king of Carnaval is Miami’s own (via Cuba) Andy Garcia, the actor, producer, musician and possessor of the world’s most amazing widow’s peak. Garcia arrived in Miami at age five and attended Miami Beach Senior High and Florida International University before he went all Hollywood on us. Besides starring in iconic films  – “The Untouchables” (remember how he saved that baby?) “Ocean’s 11” through 13, plus “The Ghostbusters” reboot coming out this summer and many more – Garcia is also an accomplished musician and will take the stage with the CineSon All Stars at the Kiwanis Stage (at 12th Avenue). 

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