Carnaval isn't just an excuse for dancing in the streets and ogling Brazilian showgirls there's also the food, the artwork, the rich tapestry of culture and history okay, we give, its about dancing in the streets. Even if you can't samba in Rio, you can still get your fiesta on at the 30th anniversary of Carnaval San Francisco, which features a tantalizing swath of Latin American and Caribbean festivities across seven city blocks. This year's theme is "Many Cultures One Spirit," a nod to the heterogeneous soul of Latin America and its shared traditions. "Carnaval" literally means "farewell to the flesh," but considering that the pre-Lent hedonism happened months ago, the festival isn't all libidinal craziness. This year's treats include a dance pavilion, where wallflowers and show-offs alike can learn to calypso, cha-cha, and cumbia; a health pavilion offering free screenings and information; and a Niñolandia, so the little ones can do their own thing. It also has a Zona Verde (Green Zone) spanning one block and making the festival the largest outdoor green event in the city. The eco-friendly space includes demonstrations on sustainable living, healing ceremonies reflecting the traditions of indigenous Latin cultures, and a feel-good message of peace that puts Mama Earth front and center. This year's musical headliner, New-Jersey based deSoL, draws from a medley of Latin and American influences to create distinctively percussive, party-vibe rhythms.
The Carnaval San Francisco Festival starts at 10 a.m. on May 24 and 25 on Harrison (between 16th and 24th sts.), S.F.
Sat., May 24, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., May 25, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., 2008