Carnaval San Francisco

Carnaval San Francisco
Photo: carnavalsanfrancisco.org
Carnaval San Francisco is an annual street parade and festival held in San Francisco, California over Memorial Day weekend. The largest multicultural celebration on the West Coast, it gives a great opportunity to experience international music, dance and cuisine.

Carnaval San Francisco was founded in 1979 by dancer Adela Chu, percussionist Marcus Gordon, costume designer Pam Minor, and a group of friends and like-minded people. It featured around 300 dancers and drummers dressed in vibrant costumes and wearing papier-mâché masks who paraded around Precita Park. It was the first ever carnival parade in the city of San Francisco.

The first Carnaval San Francisco took place in February, on a windy, cold and rainy Sunday, and didn’t feature elaborate floats. Nevertheless, it was a great success so it was decided to hold the carnival and parade annually. The parade was moved to the last weekend in May due to more favorable weather conditions and has changed several locations since its inception.

The main highlight of the San Francisco Carnival is the Grand Parade that kicks off on Saturday morning. It is a spectacular procession featuring beautifully adorned floats that represent different cultures and hundreds of performers. Parade participants include samba dancers, traditional African and Japanese drummers, Polynesian dancers, Caribbean performers, folkloric groups, and giant puppets. Countries whose culture is showcased at the festival include Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Haiti, Chile, and more.

Of course, the parade isn’t the only thing Carnaval San Francisco has to offer. Its program also includes the crowning of the Carnaval King and Queen, food vendors offering global cuisine, dance and music performances, vendors, family events, and other fun activities and entertainment for people of all ages and backgrounds. Carnival San Francisco is one of the best places to experience international music, dances, arts & crafts, and cuisine in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

Each edition of the Carnaval San Francisco festival and parade has a theme. For example, the 2017 theme was “El Corazón de San Pancho/The Heart of San Francisco”. San Pancho is a nickname for San Francisco used by Spanish-speaking locals. The organizers chose this theme to celebrate the city’s sense of unity, inclusion and multicultural pride as well as love for community, culture and tradition that comes from the hearts of its residents.

Carnaval San Francisco

Photo: carnavalsanfrancisco.org



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