Dance your way through Little Havana at Calle Ocho Street Festival

There's gotta be a famous person in this crowd somewhere. Tomas Loewy

It’s March and that means Calle Ocho in Little Havana is shutting down to traffic on Sunday, March 12. It has to happen to host Miami’s largest street party – dare we say the country’s largest? – Calle Ocho. One year it was the site of the longest conga line (it’s Guinness World Record certified, baby) and this year there are more musical acts and plenty of food-centric events.

1. The Cuban Sandwich Smackdown

Who will be crowned king of the Cuban Sandwich Smackdown this year?

Yes, it’s a given that Calle Ocho has plenty of places to grab a good Cuban sandwich but this smackdown takes it to a whole other level. Chefs from Orlando, Tampa and Miami compete for the coveted crown of Best Cuban Sandwich in Miami and South Florida. Chefs from Cuban Guys, Sergio’s, The Cuban Press and El Cubanito Subs will be stacking the pork, ham and Swiss cheese high on that Cuban bread and will have some tricks up their sleeves to make their sandwich the most unique. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., SW 8 St. and 22 Ave.

2. Music

The five-member band CNCO are Kings of the Carnival

The musical performances have come a long way since the first years of Calle Ocho and in its 40 years, the event is featuring more acts than ever before. The dizzying line-up includes iconic Albita, the five-member CNCO billed as “Latin music’s newest phenomenon” who are serving as this year’s Kings of the Carnival, duo Wilmer y Miguel, Celia Cruz All Stars and solo female artists Carolina La O, Vikina and Millie Quezada. They’ll perform at various stages throughout the festival, check the website for full schedule.

3. El Croquetazo

And speaking of Croquetas, this year they’re hosting the first-ever croqueta-eating contest aptly named El Croquetazo. Challenge yourself, how many Catalina croquetas can you eat in eight minutes? If you’re an amateur, show up at 1 when that contest kicks things off. The celebrity round is next from 3-4 p.m., then the pros get their shot from 5-6 p.m. Amateurs, you could win $300 for first place, $150 for second and $50 for third. SW 14 Ave. and 8 St.

4. VIP Tour

Ball & Chain will be the site of the VIP Lounge during Calle Ocho.

It’s not a Miami event without a VIP Tour and this one’s got a lounge stop at Ball & Chain in the heart of Calle Ocho. Grab a primo parking spot at the lot on SW 7 Street and 27 Avenue. Enjoy a Cuba Libre or Heineken at Ball & Chain, the open-air bar where there’s always live music. You’ll also enjoy the VIP area at the Cuban Sandwich Smackdown, a croqueta at Croquetazo and refreshments at the Kiwanis VIP and Backstage Area. Tickets are $100, buy them here.

5. Folkloric presentations

Folkloric groups from all over Latin America will perform at Calle Ocho. Handout

Sure, it’s called Little Havana but Calle Ocho has turned into a Latin American affair and includes folkloric presentations that reflect that. At the 13 Avenue North Stage Central America USA groups performing include Son de America from Honduras, Las Nenas de Caña from El Salvador, Grupo Azteca de Mejico and Grupo San Sebastian from Nicaragua. And for sure you’ll get caught up in the folkloric group Street Parade. SW 8 St. and 13 Ave.

IF YOU GO:

What: Calle Ocho Street Festival

When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday

Where: SW Eighth Street between 12th and 27th Avenues, Miami

Cost: Free

Info at carnavalmiami.com

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