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Food, Soccer, Compas PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Sell, BT Contributor   
April 2017

Haiti Cup, Mardi Gras add to our festival mix

OPix_MarkSell_4-17ne joy of living here is that you don’t need a passport if you want to experience another culture.

Burst out of your comfort zone, and you can savor other worlds within a 15-minute drive or even a walk across the street. If Greater Miami is more a human paella than melting pot, you could say that North Miami is a bouillabaisse.

Start with the 17th annual Madame Gougousse Haiti Cup amateur soccer tournament, where 16 teams will be competing over three months for a $13,000 purse, sharing the stage with plenty of Haitian food and compas (konpa, in Haitian Kreyol). The tournament is ongoing, with games every Sunday through May 21, from roughly 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., at the North Miami Athletic Stadium, 2555 NE 151st St. Admission costs $10 weekly and jumps to $20 for the May 21 finals.

Maestro of the event is Patrick Fabre, who launched it as a soccer tournament and then, after losing money, discovered he could turn a profit by adding Caribbean cuisine -- of which Madame Gougousse is a purveyor -- and music to the event mix (slogan: “Soccer. Food. Music. Fun.”).

Fabre did not return repeated calls, so we turned to lobbyist-impresario-provocateur Ruix “Ringo” Cayard, who recently overcame doubters and pulled off the giant January 29 downtown North Miami Mardi Gras festival on barely six weeks’ notice (see “Mardi Gras Countdown,” January 2017).

“Patrick hung in there,” says Cayard. “He lost money for at least seven years and then came up with a great concept to put music in the events.”

Roughly 5000 folks of all ages are expected to head to the stadium each Sunday, with the biggest crowds expected on the last day.

The on-site buffet offers savory Haitian cuisine, with chicken, pork, Haitian rice and beans, slaw, and corn. Madame Gougousse’s website features recipes for such signature dishes as Haitian accra fritters, soupe joumou (Haitian pumpkin soup), and Haitian beef patties, some of which are on offer at the buffet.

Matches start at 4:00 p.m., 5:45 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. If you want to bypass the soccer, the official party starts around 8:45 p.m., when the music and dancing really crank up. Sample matches include: Okap vs. Pagin Dram; Violette vs. International; Bus 40 vs. Port-au-Prince; Miramar vs. Latibonit; Gonaives vs. National.

Performers so far include Klass, T-vice, Djakout #1, and Kreyol-La. The April and May talent list is evolving, but you can expect to see and hear some funky parade bands, with Lakou Lakay at the very least.

Parking is free, but you may need a walk if you’re late. Some fans park as far as FIU, a half-mile or more away, but it’s quite a pleasant walk.

The big party happens May 21, when the aforementioned acts and more return; full details are online at www.haiticup.com.

As for Ringo Cayard and the January 29 Mardi Gras, the weather that day was reasonably awful for Miami, with 51-degree temperatures and heavy rain squalls.

Still, we saw a respectable enough crowd bopping and shivering in the gloomy late afternoon, with barely clad, valiant Brazilian samba dancers smiling and shivering past empty bleachers down 125th Street to bopping concert stand celebrants as VIPs watched from the second floor of City Hall.

The crowd picked up with dusk, and the booked acts all showed up, including folks from Cirque du Soleil. Police estimated attendance at 12,000. Cayard put it at 20,000. Whatever the case, the logistics went off well, with the Department of Transportation road closure permit pulled in three days, defying those who said it would take him 30 days.

As with all things, though, there is the issue of money. The city approved a $250,000 expense for the event with no share of the purse, as it did for the $150,000 Florida International University North Miami Brewfest in November. That’s a sore spot with Cayard.

“People were against it, and then they said it was a great event,” Cayard says. “I had to go through three people in the city to do everything. When it’s a black event, they want you to go to hell.”

Still, Cayard got a post-event endorsement from former North Miami Police Chief Kenneth Each, an early opponent of spending city money on such things.

“It was a pretty good thing, and it was a lot of fun,” Each told the city council at the March 14 meeting. “I would like to see it happen on a Saturday night, with more advertising and more inclusion. There was good barbecue and good booze, and I think we should do an after-action and see how we can improve on that. And I really want to compliment the Police Department.”

Police were there in force from North Miami, Biscayne Park, and North Miami Beach, and did well on overtime, coming in at about $33,000 over budget.

Cayard has one condition for next year: “I want full control next time,” he says. “You cannot have a tribe with two chiefs.”

The city might ask for a partnership arrangement that gives it a return on the $250,000, if and when the item comes up for budget hearings in September. As one example, Cayard points to last month’s Jazz in the Gardens at Miami Gardens’ Hard Rock Stadium, in which Clear Channel Communications operates with a healthy profit for the city, and where tickets start at $96.

“There’s a hunger for this kind of thing,” says Cayard. With popular events like Friday Jazz at MOCA and Hispanic Heritage Month in North Miami’s center, it’s tough to argue there.

Election update: Three seats are up for grabs in the North Miami city election, scheduled for May 9. Defending their seats: Mayor Smith Joseph, District 2 Councilwoman Carol Keys, and District 3 Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime.

As of this writing, Mayor Joseph has two challengers for the two-year term: Daniella Beauvais and Hector Medina. For four-year council terms, Bien-Aime has two opponents, Wincito Francius and former Councilman Jean Marcellus, while Carol Keys is so far unopposed.

Early voting starts April 24. If no candidate passes 50 percent, the top two candidates will go to a runoff June 6.

Candidate filing deadline is noon sharp on April 4 at the North Miami city clerk’s office. The mayor’s job pays $48,000 a year plus perks, and council members get a base pay of $36,000. Check your property owner’s association and the North Miami Chamber of Commerce for candidates’ forum dates.

We cannot begin to hazard a guess as to any outcomes. After all, this is North Miami, where anything will happen.

 

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