BEST SMALL-TOWN PARADE Miami 2002 - Three Kings Parade
They line up hours in advance, sitting on lawn chairs and atop plastic coolers. Kids with balloons tied to their wrists drink orange sodas and nibble on sugar bread purchased from Calle Ocho bakeries doing brisk business. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen walks by prior to the start, absorbing the throaty cheers of her core constituency. Miami's Three Kings Parade debuted in 1971 after Fidel Castro canceled Christmas and its ancillary celebrations in Cuba. (Three Kings Day honors Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, the three kings who followed a bright star to Bethlehem, where they presented the newborn Christ child with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.) Now a Calle Ocho tradition, Miami's parade features a slow-rolling procession of high school marching bands, Spanish-language radio hosts, entertainers such as Willy Chirino and Elvis Crespo, and sports stars such as gruesomely muscled baseball slugger José Canseco. The greatest cheers, though, rise for the rogues gallery of local politicians. City Commissioner Tomas Regalado and his daughter. City Commissioner Joe Sanchez twice, once on a car with his name stuck to the side and once again, later, on horseback. A grinning Joe Carollo, unaccompanied by a bikini-clad model now that he's unaffiliated with any public office. Angel Hernandez, a convicted felon and newly elected city commissioner, is greeted warmly, as is new mayor Manny Diaz, dapper in a blue guayabera. A red Corvette convertible slowly motors past. In the back seat, receiving blown kisses and the loudest cheers of the day, is the Fisherman, Donato Dalrymple, still a man of honor in Little Havana.