Miami Carnival 2016 was one for the books.  Minor detail of a Category 4 Hurricane blowing through the islands & bearing down on Southern Florida through all of the plans/timing for fetes & pretty much everything out of whack.  The blessing remains for all those in the Miami area that MC Matthew veered out a bit and essentially only got heavy winds and rain for Thursday into Friday morning.  While we primarily focus on the world of Carnival, please know that this is the time to step up the effort to support the Caribbean Massiv that wasn’t as fortunate in Haiti, D.R, and the Bahamas.  Whether it’s money, supplies, time or prayers we can all do something to support our brothers & sisters in need as there has been considerable devastation (I’ll step off my soapbox & back to your regularly scheduled program).

When you hit a Carnival year after year after year either you’re of the mindset of loving to be in a specific routine, running into the same familiar faces & essentially staying in a familiar comfort zone, or if you’re like me you want to switch it up because you feel things become monotonous and prefer experiencing something new, fresh, and unknown.  This is part of the reason that while there are a few staples in my Carnival rotation I also look to swap out a few each year as I want to continue to explore, broaden my horizons & my bucket list includes hitting every Caribbean Carnival in the world.

So, this year I was determined to make this Miami Carnival my “year of the new fete” & strictly what I’ll focus on in this review.  Mind you, anyone can do this by attending “new to you” fetes but I truly looked to hit as many truly new fetes – albeit in a condensed schedule as well as fulfilling my commitments for TJJ.

I was staying in Broward County this year so as Hurricane MC Matthew stormed by the county actually shut down the roads.  I wasn’t taking any chances, so while plenty of people seemingly had fun snapchatting, doing FB live, etc to prove they’d found a way to reach the Breakfast Fete Plunge ....... all I can say is maybe next year.   

With the impact of the Hurricane we saw some fetes canceled altogether, some changing venues, and others changing the dates/times & services.  Originally planned for Thursday night, MOA White Hot Miami ended up being rescheduled for late night Friday at the same very unique venue for Miami Carnival.  My Friday Calendar also included the “I Love Soca JA – Miami Edition” Cooler Fete.  Saturday morning, Sunnation Sunrise Breakfast Party was the new comer that truly impressed.

Jumping home for a quick change of clothes & to pack another outfit for a change in the car lol, I left mas camp having assisted with the distribution of Trini Jungle Juice’s J’ouvert section packages in GenerationX, it was time for “I Love Soca JA – Miami Edition” cooler fete.  If you’ve read my past articles you may have noticed I’m a fan of Cooler Fetes & All-inclusives because they simplify an aspect of the fete experience.  You either get to bring exactly what you & your crew want or you’re able to not think at all about who is grabbing the next round, deal with chit lines, closing out a credit card behind a bar or attempting to gauge how much cash to bring (especially if you have a friend notorious for never carrying cash – that could be a whole other blog of its’ own lol).  Generally, you also know when it comes to a cooler fete the vibe is a bit more relaxed.  The sense of community is strong as often people are happy to share a bottle with not just close friends, but acquaintances and even just friendly strangers.

I Love Soca JA – Miami Edition had plenty of coolers being rolled/carried in, and they also had a back-up bar selling drinks just in case people came unprepared or ran out.  They also had corn soup & food for sale as well.  It just had a relaxed vibe walking into the fete – nothing stush about it.  Plenty of familiar faces from all over – JA, TT, BIM, UK, DC, ATL, and NYC were all representing.  And it’s always a good indicator when there are multiple DJ’s literally just liming at a fete, guys who are not on the schedule & honestly live this life all the time so missing a fete isn’t that big of a deal – so when they actually come “just because”, rest assured they know it’s good vibes & music are in the area.  Willy Chin, DJ Delano, DJ Bimshire just there to lime while Nuphoric, Lord Hype, DJ Richie R.A.S., Tony Cross and more had the crowd wining low & pelting waists.  With the Miami fete options becoming so broad & competing for patrons in the same time slots – my guess is this fete will continue to grow organically and will appeal to Carnival junkies who are looking for a fete that’s friendly to their budget & really want to focus on good music, good people in a relaxed environment.

Originally planned for Thursday night, MOA White Hot Miami ended up being rescheduled for late night Friday at the same very unique venue for Miami Carnival.  Patrons were shuttled from nearby parking lots to this private Oasis, filled with bamboo, beautiful vegetation and a waterfall.  It was a gorgeous setting outlined with tiki torches, soft white string lights, and a few fire pits mixed in.  This intimate all-white all-inclusive fete was put on by the MOA (Ministry of Appreciation) Crew and if you’ve ever been in a fete with them, you can pretty much guarantee everyone is gonna get on bad bad.  This is essentially your crew of career professionals who also are hardcore feters, the work hard & play harder motto is definitely embraced here.  Soon after arriving (honestly hours became blurry as I ran from fete to fete) so I believe somewhere a little after midnight the late night dinner buffet of full Caribbean affair was enjoyed.

Freeze International,DJ Richie R.A.S.,  Ruan Legend of Dei Musicale and Tony Cross were behind the turntables & kept the party pumping until the very end.  Being an Open Bar the drinks flowed all night long.   Like every fete in Miami this year I felt the need to take into consideration the impact of Hurricane Matthew on so many different levels.  1st - how many patrons never made it to Miami OR days after they expected, 2nd – the impact on set-up/decorating/use of outdoor event venues, 3rd – patrons being torn/double-booked for fetes now that schedules were changed at the last minute, 4th – vendors, staff, etc. being spread thin because of the time crunch & scrambling to cover multiple fetes needs.  For the level of a fete MOA was able to pull off I thought they did an exceptional job overcoming the clear challenges thrown in their way – it was a beautiful venue, smiles all around and a variety of spaces to enjoy either liming or pelting waists. 

Being a 1st year All-Inclusive there will always be a learning curve to certain things which can/will be adjusted. 
My guess is the bartending service wasn’t quite anticipating the specific level of consumption that this group of extremely experienced feterans was able to consume.  It was a single bar with 2 bartenders that never stopped pouring for hours on end, with requests for rounds of shots on top of the mixed drinks – a few of the “high demand” preferred bottles didn’t quite make it to the end yet there were definitely other options & no one really had an issue.  This to me, is not a huge deal & honestly should be expected for a year 1 fete where there is bound to be a learning curve.  The “bang for your buck” factors (beautiful night time Oasis setting, dinner buffet, premium alcohol & well recognized DJ’s) had this as probably the best value fete I attended.  There’s no doubt this fete will be the highlight of some feter’s schedule and bound to grow in the coming years.  Is this designed to be a monsterous fete? No, and that ensures a certain level of intimacy, familiarity, etc. is preserved – which will definitely help it stand out, especially when you are looking to have a wide range of experiences within the jam-packed schedule that is Miami Carnival.

Saturday morning has a very well recognized brand now jumping into the mix to offer an All-Inclusive Breakfast Fete.  Sunnation’s Sunrise Breakfast Party in Kingston, Jamaica during Jamaica Carnival is candidly the best all-inclusive breakfast I’ve ever experienced in the Caribbean. It’s truly “an experience”.  This year was their first endeavor bringing it to Miami.  Like everyone else it was a mad dash on the finishing touches of set-up literally being finalized in the wee hours of morning as I arrived early to take in the scene and snap a few pics, yet I can honestly say it brought a smile to my face to see “Sunrise” Miami truly looking like it’s Kingston counterpart.  The tapestry above the main dancing area, elevated couches, high-profile DJ’s, LOTS of bars (of course well stocked on Appleton Reserve since it involves JA promoters) and the very familiar price of $95 for this all-inclusive breakfast fete. 

I was surprised to see that ticket price since large-scale all-inclusives in the US are much harder to pull off than in the islands & Sunrise gives so much for what you get, so my initial questions were what had to have been sacrificed in order to pull this fete off.  The fact is it was bound to be a smaller scale than JA because (besides the hurricane impact) #1 costs & guidelines in the US are more restrictive #2 it’s the first year they were bringing this fete to US soil/Miami audience.  Could they do “everything” they do in JA? No, and to think they should/could would be foolish (costs, sponsorship, etc.). It would be great to have chefs at omelet stations, misters & fans near the dance floor – yet those things cost money and considering all of the moving pieces it was an impressive launch of Sunnation’s Miami product. I know SEVERAL patrons who took FULL advantage of the premium the degree they missed their next fete (in the evening) and what they can actually recall they said "it's a MUST" on their permanent fete line-up.

I was not able to stay the entire time, as I had to get up to participate in J’ouvert with Trini Jungle Juice’s section in GenerationX, but being there from 6 am – 9 am it was clear that the vibes were already high and just getting better (later confirmed with a few different handfuls of attendees who stayed all the way through).  The fact is they deserve to charge more for this fete and be well supported, it’s that good of a product.  This serves as a great alternative for Carnival goers who don’t want to get covered in paint & mud at J’ouvert as it runs until noon.


Personally, with how MC Matthew impacted schedules one silver lining was that Sunrise got to occupy the Saturday Breakfast fete time slot on its own (they start a bit later and go later 6 am-12 pm) & Vale Miami got to have a new time slot Sunday morning on its own (4 am – 10 am).  This had been a concern of these 2 well-recognized fetes going head to head as originally schedule (Sunrise being all-inclusive & Vale being breakfast-inclusive and cash bar).  Having Vale Miami unopposed Sunday morning it allows for some who want to a fete Sunday morning & show up for parade a bit later an option.  It’s uncertain if the direct competition will have Vale Miami change their model to an all-inclusive, allow patrons to have options on style/service level, or shift to the unopposed time slot on Sunday and build a new tradition.

No matter what, the fact is the fete landscape of Miami continues to evolve and more options have made a splash in 2016 with all of them looking to have had successful 1st years that will continue to grow in the years to come ...... definitely not any indicators these are in the “1 & done” category.  I’d be glad to hit them all again and appreciate them offering a broader range of options in the cooler fete & all-inclusive fete categories, now if we can only get Miami Carnival to ACTUALLY be On De Road not in a parking lot or Fairgrounds – let’s bring it to the masses & expose even more to the culture, who’s with me?

‘Til Next Time, Soca to De World
-Jouvert Mike