by Dot Cannon
“What’s going on here?” asked a passerby, on Saturday afternoon.
What was happening, outside the Aquarium of the Pacific, was Long Beach Carnevale.
A screen and lights had been set up for photography. Masks decorated the railing near the outdoor fountains.
And costumed masqueraders strolled through the area, posing for all the photographers who hurried after them.
Modeled after centuries-old Carnival of Venice, Long Beach Carnevale is a free event. Music, dance performances, and a DJ for evening dancing are all part of the festivities.
And as in Venice, the costumes are the stars of the show.
Some of them were created by Long Beach Carnevale organizer Joseph Mascheratti. In the past, Joseph’s designs were exclusively for the Carnevale models, who showcased them for photographers.
This year, he was offering costumes for rent to the general public, for the first time since bringing Carnevale to Long Beach in 2012.
However, many Carnivale attendees came up with their own designs.
And the influences ranged from a taste of Asia…
…to the Latin Dia de los Muertos.
The day’s musical program started at 1:00, with a passionate rendition of “O Sole Mio” by singer Andy Fernuik. Serving as general MC, he spoke and sang so convincingly in Italian that later, when he told the audience he was from Texas, the news came as a surprise.
No one would have guessed “Texas”, especially on his Gipsy Kings-inspired rendition of “Volare”, to wrap up his set.
Later that afternoon, Andy talked about the similarities between Venice and Long Beach–both international seaports. “So many of the songs I sang are inspired by the ocean in Italy,” he said. “The Italians are writing these songs about the sea, and how it inspires…it arouses the senses.”
Asked his favorite part of Long Beach Carnevale, he didn’t hesitate. “The people! I love the Italian music, (it) is about the people.”
(Andy offers free downloads of his work on his website–and watch for him on iTunes shortly!)
For photographers, deciding what to photograph first presented a challenge during Long Beach Carnevale.
Great music went on all afternoon.
Stand-out performances included Brazilian samba dance by Latin group Paso De Oro, and the music of electropop artist Lucia Garcia. Her compositions, from her CD “Electric Grandma”, had an ethereal sound that complemented her look–while audience and photographers alike were grooving to the beat!
But at the same time, models were posing with a grace and fluidity that belied the weight of their costumes.
The afternoon wrapped up with a “best mask competition”, Venetian-style. In Venice, explained Joseph from the stage, one costumed candidate faces off against another.
The challenge, for the 2016 costume-competition candidates: which original mask and costume best exemplified this year’s theme: “Enigma and Beauty”.
We didn’t envy anyone the tough task of choosing just ONE winner, who would receive a free ride on a brand-new gondola service, starting in Newport Beach in April.
Here are a couple of the original costume that made it to the finals. This one’s called “Masque of the Red Death”, after the Edgar Allan Poe short story.
These finalists’costumes are called “Asian Fusion”.
…and the judges’ final choice narrowed down to his third costume…
versus “Asian Fusion”.
After a dramatic pause, the tie-breaking judge said, “I’m going with Bobby Love!”
Long Beach Carnevale 2016 exemplified success through hard work and a willingness to go with whatever happened.
Organizer Joseph Mascheratti said he’d been working since 8:00 that morning, setting up equipment. And as with any live event, there were some surprises. One of the scheduled bands had a drummer who failed to show up.
“(The bandmembers) were suffering,” Joseph said. “And they didn’t have (drumsticks). So I went and started tapping with my fingers…I was just improvising completely.”
(Fortunately, Joseph is a musician in his own right–a guitarist with a band of his own! No one could have guessed, from listening to him, that it was all improvisational.)
And for Long Beach Carnevale, 2017 edition? “We’re going to do (the costume rental) again, we’re going to do it better,” he said. “(This year), some people couldn’t get it together (assembling a costume), so they didn’t come.”
As a veteran Venetian Carnevale enthusiast, Joseph isn’t sure yet what next year’s program will include. But he knows it will give Long Beach a good time.
“The essence of Carnevale is, what is said, what you want the people to say.”