"They also serve who stand and wait," said John Milton in Paradise Lost. But that was 350 years ago. At today's 6th annual Waiters/Waitress Race, in downtown Coral Gables, they who serve will not be doing a whole lot of standing. Rather, local waiters and waitresses will be running like bats out of the poet's proverbial hell. They'll also be balancing on one hand a tray holding a beer bottle, a glass stein of Kronenbourg, and a full barquette of french fries. Any spillage means an automatic disqualification, according to Christele de La Haye, marketing director of Brasserie Les Halles, the race's originator. The competition is part of an all-day (noon to 9:00) Liberty Festival, giving a nod to the 4th of July and France's independence celebration, Bastille Day. The street party will feature deejayed music, cancan dancers, street artists, chances to interact with figures such as Lady Liberty, and plenty of food -- including all the beer-soaked fries you can scavenge off the race course around Les Halles.
In addition to the main event at 3:30, a Children's Race at 1:00 and a Chef's Race at 4:30 will have slightly different agendas. Youngsters will run with a paper cone of fries, all of which must be consumed by the race's end. Chefs face an even more grueling endurance challenge. At the starting gun, each competitor assembles a páté sandwich on a foot-long baguette. The supersized sandwich, plus a full glass of beer, must be polished off by the finish line.
For amateurs who think they might have the Right Stuff, a 1:30 p.m. Guests' Race will duplicate the Waiters' Race, except with the suds more safely stowed in plastic glasses. Last year's contestants included Miami's French Consul Christophe Bouchard, whose performance was rated by de La Haye as "bad, bad." Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick, on the other hand, "did pretty good."
Entries will be accepted at Les Halles, 2415 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, until 10 minutes before each race. Suggested entry fee is $10 and benefits nonprofit organization Best Buddies. Call 305-461-1099.
If you ever saw the old sci-fi series V: The Final Battle, you know lizards can take over the world at a moment's notice. After all, they've been at the top of the organism heap before, back in the dinosaur days, and who says they can't be again? Needless to say, an understanding of lizards should be required of all humans -- you know, just in case. But it's not going to be all about precaution on Lizard Day, beginning at noon at the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium (3280 S. Miami Ave.), because those unassuming, scaly creatures can be the object of affection as well. Which is what the 6th annual daylong event is really about. Demonstrations and activities for lizard lovers will inform and entertain. And if you own an iguana, monitor, or any other kind of lizard, bring it along. Awards in categories such as Best of Show will be given. (Westminster Kennel Club, eat your heart out!) Admission is $10. Call 305-646-4200. -- Humberto Guida
Free to Be
Venezuelans throw a tardy party
Okay, so July 5th is the actual Venezuelan Independence Day, commemorating the moment in 1811 when the country was the first in South America to declare its independence from Spain. Almost 200 years later, folks in Venezuela are banging their heads against the wall still, wondering how they're going to free themselves of Hugo Chavez, their "president" who boasts cockroach-like longevity. At least their countrymen transplanted to Miami can take a break from their brethren's troubles for a little while with the spirited music, tasty food, and charming crafts provided by the Venezuelan Independence Day Festival, commencing at 11:00 a.m. in Miami West Park (3000 NW 87th Ave.). Held for the past few years at South Miami-Dade's Fair Expo Center, the fest will be celebrated 6 days later than usual in West Miami-Dade's Doral area, home to a more-than-60-percent Hispanic population. Heartthrob vocalist José Luis Rodriguez ("El Puma") headlines. Admission is $10. Call 305-717-3206. --Nina Korman>
Sure you've heard of Little Haiti, but have you ever actually been there -- walked among its streets, shopped in its shops, munched on its cuisine? Do you even know where it is? The Little Haiti Tour, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, is ready to expose you to all the attributes of the area, centering on NE 54th Street and 2nd Avenue. Sponsored by the City of Miami Haitian Bicentennial Committee and Urban Tour Host, the exploration will take place on foot and by bus. You'll be introduced to the brightly colored Caribbean Marketplace. Built in 1990 and imagined as a bustling shopping zone, the structure, hallowed by critics for its eye-catching design, lacked traffic and closed shortly thereafter. Lately the City of Miami has been attempting to resuscitate the property. You'll also learn about vodou and visit local botánicas, which peddle supplies for spells both good and bad. Any visit to the area wouldn't be complete without a taste of pain patate (sweet potato bread) or griot (fried pork) or the sounds of compas and rasin. Bring your appetite for a fascinating culture. Admission is free. Call 305-663-4455. -- Nina Korman