Although the sun failed to make an appearance, the streets of Rotterdam were buzzing with excitement as the final day of the Summer Carnival celebrations came to a close. Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the Netherlands, Europe’s biggest port, is home to a large diverse and multi-cultural community.
The Fernandes Summer Carnival (Zomer Carnival) is an annual three-day event held in Rotterdam, attracting approximately 900,000 visitors each year. The very first Rotterdam Summer Carnival was held in 1984 by a group of Antilleans based on Carnivals held in their homelands.
The carnival has since grown to include influences from a wide variety of cultures. On July 23, the Summer Carnival begins with the election of the Summer Carnival Queen, which was done through internet voting for the first time this year. Sulimar Cook, a 25- year- old Peruvian and Cape Verdian woman, was crowned queen this year and had the honor of leading the street parade on the final day of celebrations.
The second day of the carnival, which was July 29, is held during the evening of the Friday before the street parade (almost one week later), this year it attracted 50,000 visitors. Four brass and drum bands began from different locations; they marched and played through the crowds until they reached the stage located close to Rotterdam’s grand City Hall where the battle commenced. Sulimar Cook, Summer Carnival Queen 2011, presented the winner’s Unicum Brass Band with an award and the title of Best Brass Band of Summer Carnival 2011.
The final day of the Summer Carnival, held on Saturday, July 30, launched with the street parade. The Queen of the Carnival led the parade through the crowded streets of Rotterdam for four and a half hours. Live bands and trucks with loud speakers filled the air with a variety of Caribbean and Latin music, whilst dancers from around the world in exotic and colorful costumes kept the crowds cheering. The street market featuring food from across the globe sent fragrant aromas all through the crowded city center.
This year another special event occurred at the heart of the city center. At 3:30 p.m. people were gathered at Schouwbergplein, in an attempt to break the world record for the largest salsa dance, an appropriate choice for the final day of Summer Carnival. Venezuela held the previous title with 451 couples.
Worried there were not enough salsa dancers, pulses raced and anxiety was high among the crowd, as the square was still filling up in the final moments before the attempt. The buzzer went off and finally 572 dance couples, salsa danced for five minutes, succeeding in their attempt at making a new world record.
The day ended with DJs, musicians and performers from all around the globe performing on the stage next to City Hall, while spectators danced and cheered with umbrellas and raincoats ready at hand. If the day was not enough for everyone, the celebrations continued at various parties and clubs throughout the city until early hours of Sunday morning.