The history of Miami Carnival has been notoriously plagued with conflict and drama. In the past separate festivals were held at locations spread so far apart that revelers were forced to pick a parade according to geography. The organizers have finally gotten their act together. Realizing that Carnival is about peace, love, and unity, they've managed to put the past behind them. This year, for the 20th anniversary, the Miami Carnival mas bands have outdone themselves in order to create an appropriately massive jamboree to unite Caribbean culture lovers from near and far. The watchwords are bigger, better, and more. More music, bigger artists, better parade route, a lot more partying going on.
Just as in the islands, Carnival couldn't possibly be contained in a single day. Friday night's Cultural Heritage show at Hialeah Park includes everything but the parade of sweaty, sequined masqueraders. Expect elements of traditional Trinidadian Carnival including minstrels, bats, and midnight robbers strolling the park. In addition to a concert and all-night party, watch the crowning of the Miami king and queen of carnival, ooh and aah at the Trinidad and Tobago 2004 Carnival king and queen, and boogie to the steel band competition.
Sunday's day-long extravaganza will feature more than twenty costumed bands parading downtown's streets in a whirling, wining, grinding spectacle of color, perspiration, and exposed midsections. A hodgepodge of international sounds will be represented at this year's festival: Trini calypso, Jamaican reggae, Haitian compas, and American hip-hop. Look out for stellar performances from the likes of Calypso's legendary Mighty Sparrow, Machel Montano & Xtatik 5.0, Byron Lee & the Dragonnaires, Djanage, Da Band, and 2004 Panorama champions Exodus Steel Orchestra. Friday night's Cultural Heritage Show kicks off at 7:00 at Hialeah Park (2200 E. 4th Ave.). Admission is $10. Sunday's grand parade begins at noon at the corner of NE 36th Street and NE Second Avenue. From there the procession will move south along NE Second Avenue, east to Biscayne Boulevard and into Bicentennial Park, 1075 Biscayne Blvd. Admission is $20. Children under 12 get in free. Call 305-653-1877 or visit www.miamicarnival.org. --Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik
Looks like you won't have to wait for Memorial Day's hip-hop weekend to get your crunk on. Blowing through Bayfront Park (301 Biscayne Blvd.) this Saturday is the Koochie Krunk Festival, featuring a lineup of booty thumpin' rap royalty with enough wattage to shake the rest of the coconuts off the trees, after hurricanes A through Z. Truth is, Miami is now in the eye of the rap world storm, so most players either live here or party here so much they're honorary residents. Just like headlining act Trick Daddy, the original Dirty South thug, and the biggest star after Uncle Luke to ever rise from the 305. Also on the bill is the crunk king himself, Lil' Jon, the party rapper from Atlanta and longtime hit-making producer. His protégés Ciara (First Lady of Crunk & B) and the Ying Yang Twins will also perform, with the evening rounded out by Miami's own rising star, Pitbull, fresh off his hit "Culo." Doors open at 4:00 p.m. Tickets cost $20. Call 305-358-7550. -- John Anderson
Cheer up at church
An ordinary Sunday is anything but ordinary at Unity on the Bay (411 NE 21st St.). During services at the nondenominational church, attendees are not only spiritually enlightened but pleasantly entertained by some of Miami's finest musicians. Accompanied by the church's rollicking house band, soloists such as Nicole Henry, Karen Jones, Timothy Blunston, and Glen Gonzalez fill the sanctuary with the most joyful noise. But not to worry: You don't have get up early on Sunday morning or be a member of the congregation to have a similar experience. This evening at 7:00 you can stir your soul with the sixth annual Sounds of Unity music festival. On the bill will be many regulars including the aforementioned folks, plus Ike and Val Woods, Cheryl Victor, Johannys Hartog, Karina Iglesis, Dr. J., and the powerful group Inner Voice. Adelle Carlton takes care of the MC chores. Tickets cost $35; $75 buys a reserved seat. Call 305-573-9191. -- Nina Korman
When your dog chewed your swanky Italian leather armchair to bits, you became convinced that what old Waldo really needed once and for all was not another semester of obedience school but an exorcism. Instead of collecting holy water and calling Father Merrin, maybe you should try something gentler? Like a pet blessing. In honor of St. Francis of Assisi (patron saint of animals and the environment, whose feast day just passed on Monday, October 4), Annette Jones, pastor at St. John's on the Lake Church and companion to a Lhasa Apso named Shadow, will conduct a pet blessing service for furry, scaly, or feathered friends and the humans they hang out with. Afterward animal and human treats will be served at a reception overlooking the lake. Don't worry if you and your boa constrictor Irving are Jewish: All are welcome. Blessing begins at 11:00 a.m. at St. John's on the Lake Church, 4760 Pine Tree Dr., Miami Beach. Admission is free. Call 305-531-7166. -- Nina Korman