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It has been awhile since controversy erupted inside the ranks of South Florida’s most colorful street parade and party celebrating Caribbean culture.
And now, thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic, it seems the tension is back.
The desire of the Miami-Broward One Carnival host committee to have this year’s show go on despite COVID-19 is leading to dissonance among some of the bands behind the boisterous fete featuring colorfully-clad masqueraders parading to soca and calypso music.
On Monday, the South Florida Carnival Band Leaders Association, citing “the increased and overwhelming concerns” about COVID-19, announced it would not be participating in this year’s event, which is scheduled to take place over Columbus Day weekend in October.
“We feel this is the best way to proceed during such an unprecedented global situation,” the bandleaders’ association said in a press statement. “We know it’s the right decision regarding the health and safety of everyone in our industry.”
The statement was issued in response to the Miami-Broward One Carnival’s committee announcement two days earlier that while it recognizes these are difficult times, it remained fully operational and was making plans to continue with this year’s festival, scheduled for Oct. 8 -12.
“We are optimistic that there is a path forward,” organizers said.
Carnival organizers say they know there will need to be changes to this year’s festivities, which draws revelers and artists from across the Caribbean and New York.
But what those changes will look like for the festival is still in the works, says a source who added that ideas under consideration include limiting the number of participants, mandatory masks, a drive-up concert and spreading the partying out at several venues.
Whatever the decisions are, they will be a test for Carnival, which encourages the opposite of social distancing as artists invite scantily-clad masqueraders to wind and gyrate through the streets along with revelers.
With the virus hitting the Caribbean, a number of countries canceled Carnival this year. New York City, which stages the annual Labor Day Parade, or West Indian Carnival, still has not said if its festival will happen on Sept. 7. The epicenter of coronavirus infections in the United States, New York began emerging from a 78-day lockdown on Monday as the city began reopening.