This past weekend Hollywood Blvd. came alive with the sounds and energy of the islands. Trinidad, Barbados, St. Lucia, Haiti and beyond, all “getting on bad” through dance in the name of unity and tradition. While other U.S. cities like Miami and New York are well-known for their Caribbean carnival celebrations and demographic, Los Angeles is stepping to the forefront with its annual Culture Festival and Hollywood Carnival Parade in hopes to put the city’s Caribbean pride on the international map.
Founded in 2012, the annual week-long event includes dance, crafts, food and music from around the world. Trinidad’s soca superstar Machel Montano hosted EPIC MAS Band this year with hundreds of men and women in colorful costume dancing to the best soca mixes down Hollywood Blvd. The parade ended at Carnival Village, where various food vendors offered a taste of the Caribbean and a lively performance by Machel. The energy was palpable, with people proudly singing the words to some of Trinidad’s biggest soca songs.
Hollywood Carnival has continued to grow over the years. If you are thinking about getting road ready for the next one, here are just a few ways to make sure you are doing it right:
1. Bring a flag: If you own your country’s flag, bring it. Wave it. There is a pride in being from the Caribbean that carnival parades capture perfectly. Don’t worry about cues. There are plenty of people around you and songs that will tell you exactly when to raise it high.
2. Do your research: It’s wonderful to dance freely amongst strangers and friends, but learning the history of Carnival is important too. Beyond the bacchanal and wining, Carnival honors the legacy of slaves who forged their own celebration through masquerading in the fields. Carnival is the culmination of people finding a way to freedom through movement.
3. Choose a band. Groups of people form bands for Carnival day. Each band has a section that wears its own costume. Some carnivals can have up to 20 different bands. Budget, age demographic, and interests are just a few of the deciding factors that may help you choose the right group for you. For Hollywood Carnival, EPIC MAS band is great choice, with some of the biggest dj’s, most diverse crowds and best costumes.
4. Let go. No, really. Leave your problems and stress at home. Being on the road is all about freedom— the kind that makes adults smile like children. All body shapes and sizes are welcome. All positive energy is manifested and magnified. This is the magic of Carnival.
5. Come with an appetite. Nothing works up an appetite quite like dancing for hours in the sun. Carnival planners know this well and are ready to feed the crowds with some of the Caribbean’s best dishes: bake and shark, pelau, jerk chicken, roti, and, if you’re lucky, some good ole Trini doubles.
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