Kiwanis Club of Little Havana celebrated the annual Calle Ocho Festival on Sunday attracting thousands of attendees. Known as the largest Latino festival in the United States, this year’s flagship event featured live performances from King of Carnaval 2018, Carlos Oliva, Willy Chirino, Chyno, Natti Natasha, El Chacal, Mau y Ricky, Johnny O and Alex Sensation, as well as savory competitions like the 2nd annual croquette eating competition, El Croquetazo, presented by Catalina and the annual Cuban Sandwich Smackdown.
The renowned street festival marked the official finale of this year’s Carnaval Miami, which serves as the marquis annual fundraiser of Kiwanis Club of Little Havana in support of the Kiwanis Little Havana Foundation’s youth development programs. Calle Ocho capped off the series in stunning fashion once again bringing together nearly 1 million attendees representing a myriad of Latin American countries and the diversity of South Florida.
Festival attendees enjoyed hundreds of culinary and merchandise vendors as well as 12 live music stages all in celebration of Latin culture. Guests who purchased VIP passes enjoyed a day full of surprises and fun with exclusive experiences and access to private lounges and backstage areas, including the Kiwanis hospitality suite at Ball & Chain and the opportunity to mingle with Calle Ocho stage performers and the 2018 poster artist Atomik.
Adding flavor to the festival were culinary crowd favorites Cuban Sandwich Smackdown and El Croquetazo.
The Cuban Sandwich Smackdown hosted more than 10 restaurants from around the region as they competed for a chance to win in the competition’s three categories. 2018 winners are as follows:
- Most Popular Cuban Sandwich: Benitez Bistro To Go
- Best Traditional Cuban Sandwich: Brothers Kitchen Grill
- Best Non-Traditional Cuban Sandwich: Bella Cuba Restaurant
The 2nd annual Croquetazo hosted more than 30 individuals as they went head-to-head, eating as many “croquetas” as possible for bragging rights and monetary prizes ranging from $100 to $1,750 to benefit a charity of their choice. Winners in each of the categories were:
- Celebrity: Caso Cerrado’s Detective Frank Peñate with 15 croquettes
- Professional: Major League Eating’s Geoffrey Esper with 154 croquettes in eight minutes