Miami's annual Mardi Gras celebration is but a babe in the woods. Compared to Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, we have plenty of growing to do before our three-year-old celebration becomes the "main attraction for Mardi Gras/Carnival festivities internationally," as Miami's official mission statement idealistically proclaims. No matter, we're going to have a whole lot of fun along the way. We've got beautiful people, wonderful weather, and location, location, location. As a geographically way-down-there gateway to North America, Miami has become home to Caribbean and Latin American people who know quite a bit about the type of annual festivals that turn downtown streets into Bacchanalian playgrounds. Recipe for go-wild success: Begin with the rich heritages of Brazilian and Trinidadian carnivals, mix in a liberal dose of Haiti's Jacmel celebration and a dash of Barbadian Crop Over, season with West Indian jump-ups, blend well, and serve right here.
Everybody loves one, and this year's parochial parade will feature a dreamscape of floats. Biscayne Boulevard will come alive with a host of local personalities flinging T-shirts, hats, and beads to the eager masses. The exotic sounds we've adopted -- from soca to reggaeton to compas -- will be blaring from speakers, and some of the Caribbean's most dynamic performers will add live sonic thrills. Reggae ambassadors Spragga Benz ("Jack it Up"), Mr. Vegas ("Heads High"), and Wayne Wonder ("No Holding Back") will delight the crowd with their many hits. Añasco's reggaeton diva Ivy Queen will work her sexy thug magic, and rapper Chingy will make the girls scream for hits like "Right Thurr" and "Holidae In." Fresh from their gigs at the hypest Trini fetes, Machel Montano and Xtatik will bring the soca vibe, compelling one and all to pump, jump, and wave their own particular flags under the big banner of Miami Mardi Gras. All of this is free, as are we. Party on, Miami!