Best Festival - 1999
Readers' Choice: Calle Ocho festival
It's something of a looking glass: You enter one of Miami's tougher, more impoverished neighborhoods and find yourself in the Bahamas during a wildly fun street party. Dreamed up 22 years ago by musician Billy Rolle and some friends, Goombay commemorates and celebrates the history and culture of the first black settlers in South Florida. Each June the area around Grand Avenue and Douglas Road fills with celebrants (organizers claim more than a half-million visitors each year); music (three stages plus parades); arts and crafts (straw hats, figurines, shell craft, and plenty more). An undercurrent of energy runs through the affair, enlivened by the parading junkanoos, who are musically abetted by the Royal Bahamas Police Band, R&B singers, hip-hoppers, and others. Some 300 vendors line the streets with kiosks full of sundry souvenirs and every type of island food. Here you can find the finest conch salad and fritters outside Nassau. This festival stands out as a vibrant ode to those brave pioneers from the Caribbean and as a joyful indulgence in island culture. And that conch salad ...