1. What, when, and where is this Carnival parade?
Hollywood Carnival and Parade is in its 8th year and was held in Los Angeles, California June 29, 2019. It is sponsored by two organizations, the Los Angeles Culture Festival a nonprofit organization and Hollywood Carnival LLC, though the parade is labeled Hollywood Carnival.
It's a parade of traditional folk costumes, feathered and spandex bikinis, drum ensembles, dance choreography, pageant queens, and all kinds of cultural displays and sounds. Based on its location, one would think it's a touristy event since it's held on that iconic boulevard of concrete embedded gold stars. Yet, this three-mile parade following along Hollywood Blvd. feels more like California's local Caribbean, Central America, and South American communities have come out to represent and celebrate, along with many others.
The parade starts in Thai Town and runs to the Highland Center (also known to me as home to the big elephants). Living in LA, one can forget to visit some of the iconic historic locations and new pop-up businesses reflecting the changing modern cityscapes. The Hollywood Carnival parade offers an ephemeral trail of world culture and an exciting array of museums, theaters, and interesting sites: Museum of Death, Hollywood Hemp Museum, Museum of Illusions, Museum of Selfies, Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley's Believe it or not Hollywood Museum, Hollywood Guinness World of Record's Museum, Hologram USA Theater, Pantages Theater, Egyptian Theater/Grauman's Egyptian Theater, Virtual Reality Games center, Escape Room Experiences, The Musso & Frank Grill, LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), and at a distance one can see the Hollywood Sign.
2. Who is the Grand Marshal and what's the social message behind the float?
I spoke with Alex Boyé, musician and Grand Marshal of the parade, asking about his float's inspiration and message (transcript of interview)
“I saw Taraji P. Henson and she said one of the things when she talked to Congress was, look, you know, nobody in the black community talks about it, nobody wants to talk about mental illness, it’s seen as a sign of weakness, a sign that you have a huge problem, and nobody wants to show their problems out here. If you’re in a gang and tell your gang members you’re having these problems, they’ll kill you. So, we want to show them this is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.
Then a week later I was asked to be Grand Marshal, and thought, she was saying we need to get this message in the black community. Here’s a float, here’s a message, and it’s going right through the black community. That’s why I thought this would be perfect."
Question: Do you always have messages in your work, performing your music?
"Yes, yes, for me, my mission statement is to bring joy to people’s hearts through music. Here’s the other thing, music is healing and I think a lot of us use it by accident. We don’t do it deliberately. We hear it a song accidentally on the radio and say oh my gosh, did you feel that, I felt so good. My music is deliberate. My message is more deliberate that we can use music to actually heal, be part of your healing process."
Question: Can you explain the float?
"Let me give you the message, so right here, we have what’s called the tree of life, and what happens is that with a tree, the deeper the roots the stronger the tree, so the message is, if we have deeper roots of self-love to ourselves and positivity, when the wind comes we will bend, but will never break. And we have the mask, the mask represents years of hiding our true selves, that we need to expose our true self, and tell people if we are suffering, it’s okay to say that, so that’s what (the mask) is for. Right here, is the throne, that represents every single one of us, we are all kings and queens. When we have a better understanding, we have better appreciation for ourselves. So, all of this is the message.
That’s what the floats all about, promoting a cause that is worthy of all of us that mental health…, I (often) call it mental health now as opposed to mental illness, and to focus on that more, it’s the same thing but just a different slant we are looking for. Mental Wellness, yes, it’s the mental wellness float."
Alex Boyé is from England, lived in Park City Utah for 20 years, and performed on the stages of Carnival Village concerts. Riding on the float were Boyé and volunteers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention AFSP, with walkers handing out a flyer announcing the "Walk to Fight Suicide" November 2, 2109 Pasadena and an attached plastic-wrapped lifesaver candy.
3. What countries are represented in the parade?
Through the presentation of traditional costumes, flags, banners, and pageant sashes, parade watchers see a bit of world culture on display. Various countries represented include: Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, plus many others.
4. Who designs some of these elaborate costumes and decorations?
I talked with one designer, Nixon Yanes, who created the El Salvadoran costumes and decorations. He designs based on the personality of the girl and what is going on with the trends and colors of the season. These costumes represent Mayan culture, flowers, water, and an historic building of El Salvador. The Mayan costume is worn by his sister who also helps in drawing some of the imagery. The other costumes are worn by reigning pageant queens and models. Miss Cultural Salvadorena, Nafis Ventura, wears one of the flower themed costumes.