Been To San Francisco Carnaval Festival And Grand Parade

“A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”
Mohandas Gandhi

San Francisco Carnaval is a celebration of multi-culturalism that started in Precita Park in the Mission District 33 years ago.  San Francisco Cultural Arts Traditions, a cultural arts and education non-profit, developed it into the large celebration it is today.  Their mission is “to make multiculturalism a tangible reality by uniting people in the celebration of cultural arts traditions with music, dance, artistry and food,  and through this endeavor, benefit our communities.”

The festival is a two day event (Saturday and Sunday), but I decided to go today because that’s when the parade was.  J and I walked down to 18th and Mission around 9:30 this morning to catch it.  It wasn’t too crowded, but there were other people waiting with us as well.

This was the kickoff of the parade.  The front of the parade got to us at around 10 am.

The organization that runs Carnaval (SFCAT) had the first float with this year’s theme “Live Your Fantasy” proudly displayed on it.

Dance groups definitely represented the most participants in the parade.  The types of dance in the parade were pretty varied, ranging from mambo to capoeira to samba.



I finally got my picture with the World Series Trophy.  Lou Seal even took his shades off for the snapshot.

There were some great costumed performances by some of the participants.  Masked men and pirates definitely kept it interesting. 
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Anyone need a balloon?

This soccer guy was from a local soccer association.  He was doing tricks like nobody’s business.

There were some pretty great African costumes on display, and it was cool to see the people in them interact with the crowds.  That definitely made it fun to watch.
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There was no shortage of bands playing on floats followed by dancers in extravagant costumes.

Even parade participants in full costume have to eat and drink.  After they were done with their parts, these guys were awesome enough to pose for me in between sips of champagne.

After spending a couple hours at the parade, we headed over to the festival section, which was all the way over on Harrison, five blocks away.  There were booths selling art, t-shirts, and other gift items.  There were three sections for food as well as three stages with bands playing different kinds of music.
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This one guy made Carnaval his excuse to dress up as a bucket head with a cape.

The volume of participants in Carnaval was truly impressive, but it was different than other events I’ve been to in the past.  It seems like the big event was the parade.  It was very long parade.  We left the parade after two hours to go to the festival but when we came back, it was still going several hours later.  The parade was at least 5 hours long.  It could’ve been longer, but it was still going strong by the time we decided to go home.

Unfortunately, there were spots in the parade where there were very long gaps between floats.  In fact, they were so separated that one would pass, and we could barely see the next one behind it.  We felt like we were waiting a lot, and it wasn’t just one or two times.  I had never seen anything like that before in a parade, but this could easily have been because it’s was so long.

Also, trying to leave the festival was a pain.  There were only a few places we could exit (16th Street and 19th Street).  By the way, the best way would be to go to 16th because then it’s possible to get around the parade as well. 

Despite these shortcomings, San Francisco Carnaval was successful as a celebration of many cultures, and it seemed like people of many different ethnicities and backgrounds were represented in both the festival and the crowds.  I really enjoyed that part of it.  When people can express their excitement for different cultures in one place and truly celebrate that, isn’t that what San Francisco is all about? 

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