Kiwanis Club of Little Havana celebrated its 40th annual Calle Ocho Festival attracting more than 1 million attendees. Known as the largest Latino festival in the United States, this yearâ€™s flagship event featured live performances from Kings of Carnaval 2017, CNCO, Reykon, Willy Chirino, Albita, Jose Alberto â€œEl Canario,â€ Milly Quezada, Piso 21, Chacal, Cosculluela, J Quilles and Carlos Oliva, as well as savory competitions like the first-ever El Croquetazo presented by Catalina and 3rd Annual Cuban Sandwich Smackdown. Marking the official end of a weekâ€™s worth of Carnaval Miami 2017 events, the marquis annual fundraiser of Kiwanis Club of Little Havana in support of the Kiwanis Little Havana Foundationâ€™s youth development programs, Calle Ocho capped off the series in stunning fashion. The event brought together more than 1,250,000 attendees representing a myriad of Latin American countries.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary, a V.I.P. component was introduced to the annual festival for the first time ever, offering event-goers an exclusive experience. V.I.P. Passport holders received special gift bags and explored the festivalâ€™s sixteen blocks using special transportation provided by Freebie; enjoyed access to privileged areas, including Kiwanis hospitality suite at Ball & Chain; and had the opportunity to mingle with Calle Ocho stage performers and the 2017 poster artist Alexander Mijares, on a day full of surprises and fun. Adding flavor to the festival were culinary crowd favorites Cuban Sandwich Smackdown and El Croquetazo.
More than 10 restaurants from around the region competed in the Cuban Sandwich Smackdown for a chance to win, but Sanguich de Miami took home the 2017 title of â€œThe Best Cuban Sandwich in Miami and South Florida.â€ More than 30 individuals went head-to-head, eating as many croquettes as possible for bragging rights and monetary prizes ranging from $100 to $1,750, but only three prevailed. Winners in each of the categories were: Michael Rodriguez from amateur with 44 croquettes, Jose Antonio Alvarez from celebrity with 15 croquettes and Carmen Cincotti (New Jersey) from professional with 158 croquettes in eight minutes.
Closing out the day-long festival was a performance by CNCO, the Kings of Carnaval Miami 2017. The group stole the crowdâ€™s hearts with performances of their hit song, â€œQuisieraâ€ and their current single, â€œReggaetÃ³n Lento.â€ Emerging in 2015 as the winners of Univisionâ€™s all-boy band singing competition, â€œLa Banda,â€ Erick ColÃ³n (Cuba; 16), Joel Pimentel (Mexico; 18), Cristopher VÃ©lez (Ecuador; 21), Zabdiel de JesÃºs (Puerto Rico; 19), and Richard Camacho (Dominican Republic; 20) are a true representation of Latinos with diverse backgrounds and ages, making them a perfect fit for this yearâ€™s crown. #CalleOcho #CocaColaCalleOcho @Carnaval_Miami @KiwanisKCLH