Music Festivals

Calle Ocho Festival Canceled — Again

Calle Ocho Live performances have been canceled for the second consecutive year owing to the coronavirus  pandemic.
Calle Ocho Live performances have been canceled for the second consecutive year owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Karli Evans
In a stark reminder that the pandemic is still upending life in Miami one year later, the world-famous Calle Ocho Music Festival has been canceled once again for 2021. Along with Ultra Music Festival, the festival was one of the first major events postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19.

In a statement released this morning, festival organizers announced that they have canceled this year's festivities scheduled for March, as well as their other annual cultural event in Coral Gables, Carnaval on the Mile, in the interest of public health.

The decision comes as COVID-19 persists in Miami-Dade County.

When the 2020 festival was canceled last March, coronavirus cases were only beginning to pop up in South Florida, and City of Miami officials put a stop to massive gatherings as a precautionary measure and forced the cancellation of major music events, including Calle Ocho. As of today, Miami-Dade County has reported more than 380,000 total cases of the virus and around 5,000 deaths, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard.

Last October, the celebration returned in facsimile form, with a digital livestream of Latino musical acts, including a virtual appearance by the late Celia Cruz. Still, organizers held out hope they'd be able to return to an in-person event by this year.

The Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, organizers of Carnaval Miami, which hosts Calle Ocho Festival, is a nonprofit organization that helps South Florida underprivileged youth by providing scholarships and school supplies, among other services.

The festival, the largest celebration of Latin music and culture in the U.S., is one of the organization's major fundraising events. All proceeds from the festival go toward Kiwanis youth programs, and this second cancellation deals a significant blow to the club's work in the community.

Kiwanis Club of Little Havana president Jorge Fernandez said in a statement that the pandemic hit the organization hard by crippling its largest fundraisers, but he hopes to see the signature event return by next year.

“It is disappointing that this will be the second year in a row without a Calle Ocho Music Festival, but public health is the priority. We look forward to dancing in the street together again in 2022," Fernandez said.

According to Ross Jiminez, president of the Kiwanis of Little Havana Foundation, plans are in the works to hold another digital event sometime this year.

Although there has been no official word on the fate of Miami's other famous musical extravaganza, the Ultra Music Festival, the Miami Herald and Billboard reported that organizers of that event sent a letter to City of Miami officials asking to reschedule this year's event to 2022 owing to COVID-19.

The tentative date for Calle Ocho Music Festival 2022 is March 13.
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos