San Francisco's Carnaval parade draws a crowd

Thousands lined the streets in San Francisco's Mission District Sunday for the 33rd annual Carnaval parade and street festival.

More than 300,000 participants were expected to attend the two-day San Francisco Carnaval 2011 “Live Your Fantasy” celebration, presented by San Francisco Cultural Arts Traditions. The event began Saturday morning and
continued Sunday morning with the grand parade.

The parade, showcasing Latin American and Caribbean cultures, began at Bryant and 24th streets at around 9:30 a.m.

A group from the local Mayan community was prepared for their seventh Carnaval parade with a float, tricycles and decorations.

Since last December, the group has practiced their jarana dance, representing traditional celebrations of their Mayan people, group organizer Alberto Perez said.

Further down the parade route, 60 dancers paired off for a Cuban-style salsa circle dance with the group Rueda con Ritmos. For the past three months dancers from the Santa Cruz and San Francisco areas have been practicing, dancer Cesario Ruiz, 33, of Santa Cruz, said.

Parade-watchers, like San Francisco resident Liz Ramos, 53, came armed for the festivities with chairs, food, whistles and dancing shoes.

“Everything is my favorite,” Ramos said about her 15th Carnaval parade. “The Brazilian dancers, the music, the colors.”

For business, Usulatan restaurant staff on 24th Street knows the parade brings crowds.

“After 10 a.m. it gets crazy,” Lizzeth Nunez, whose sister-in-law owns Usulatan, said while setting up a table outside the restaurant with papusas and tamales.

First-time attendees Emily, 30, and Steve Cramer, 32, from Kansas City, Mo., said they had never been to San Francisco.

“There's excitement here in the city,” Steve said about his first Carnaval experience.

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