Carnave Latin America Pageant at the Venetian in Las Vegas

Carnave Latin America Pageant at the Venetian in Las Vegas

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Las Vegas always has a party going on, but not many are so big that they require multiple locations. CarnaVé 2003 is the new kid on the block, but the event will fit perfectly here: it's a wild, festive celebration that rolls from one hot spot to another in our city that never sleeps. Don't you just hate this town? (Me neither.)

CarnaVé, the brainchild of event marketer Gene Dibble, is an international celebration of Latin music and culture. The "Vé" stands for Las Vegas, the chosen venue, and "Carna" recalls the well-known Carnaval of Rio de Janeiro. Dibble professes the ambitious goal of making this event as popular as Carnaval. Oh, and one more thing: "Each year we will come back and create one of the biggest parties Las Vegas has ever seen." It's a tall order, but given what I know of Latin American culture, it's just possible.

What's a Las Vegas party without beautiful, poised women dressed to thrill?

Other events at CarnaVé 2003 included: Noches de CarnaVé, CarnaVé Reventón, Moda de CarnaVé, Oasis de CarnaVé and the Miss Mesoamerica International Beauty Pageant where over twenty of the most beautiful women from Latin America competed for the coveted crown.

The Miss Mesoamerica pageant was founded by Francisco Cortez in 1992 as a celebration of Mayan (Central American) culture and beauty, but it quickly grew into a broader international pageant. Now presented in Las Vegas as part of CarnaVé, it includes contestants from all over Latin America. Judging by this year's competitors, I'd say there's a plenty of beauty to go around.

The party began Wednesday, September 10 with "Cine de CarnaVé" and a screening of the award-winning bilingual film "Blue Diner" from Puerto Rico. The film event took place at the Palms Hotel Casino and was followed by a reception (which, in Las Vegas, means "party") and Q&A with executives from the film and the industry. "Noches de CarnaVé" continued the festivities Thursday and Friday with two dance parties at the upscale nightclubs Curve (inside the Aladdin Resort Casino) and Venus (in the Venetian). Also on Friday was a special publicity event in the Venetian: Actor Mario Lopez and musician Tito Puente, Jr. presented a check for $25,000 to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund on behalf of CarnaVé, and the pageant contestants dazzled the crowd with their bright smiles and red evening gowns. The event wasn't given a name, but I would suggest "Ogle de CarnaVé."

You can't have a summer event in Las Vegas without a weekend pool party. After Saturday's "Moda de CarnaVé," in which the pageant contestants modeled fashions and jewelry from Venezuelan designers at - where else - Fashion Show Mall, everyone repaired to the Hilton's newly updated pool area for "Oasis de CarnaVé," featuring The Girls From Ipanema and other live music performers. The highlight of the evening was the oh-so-unpopular swimsuit and "best body" portions of the pageant. I had made plans out of town that day and am now seeing a good psychiatrist. Miss Venezuela's victory that evening propelled her to ultimate triumph in Sunday's main pageant extravaganza in the Venetian's C2K Showroom, where she was crowned Miss Mesoamerica 2003. (She won best swimsuit and Best Personality awards also.) Another party followed (as if you had to ask), at the Prana Restaurant to close the festival for this year.

CarnaVé coincided with the kickoff of Hispanic Heritage Month here in the States (September 15 through October 15). In Latin America, of course, every month is Hispanic Heritage Month, and the festive mood of this brief celebration can be found in everyday life there. Tempted to move south? Don't worry - with Las Vegas its new permanent home, CarnaVé will bring the fun back to us again next year.

And the winner is . . . everyone, of course. Salud!


Latino Public Broadcasting Executive Director Luca Bentivoglio screened THE BLUE DINER during the inaugural edition of CarnaVé during Cine de CarnaVé, at the Brenden Theatres 14 at the Palms Casino Resort followed by a Q&A and a reception that included Producing/directing/writing team Natatcha Estebanez and Jan Egleson and co-star José Yenque. The reception was held at the Ghost Bar at the Palms Casino Resort.

The feature film was presented on PBS by WGBH Boston scheduled for broadcast nation wide on PBS stations mid-September. Funding was provided by Latino Public Broadcasting, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and public television viewers. Proceeds of the screening will benefit KLVX-PBS, Las Vegas.

One of the few fully bilingual American independent films, THE BLUE DINER, tells the story of how a Puerto Rican mother and daughter confront a lost father, lost language, and lost love. Misunderstood and equally stubborn, these women clash powerfully and comically until they realize how much they need each other. The film stars Miriam Colón (All the Pretty Horses, Lonestar) and Lisa Vidal (NBC's Third Watch, I Like It Like That, Lifetime's The Division) with José Yenque (Traffic, The Price of Glory) and William Marquez (Zorro, Forces of Nature).

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Rob LaGrone, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent – Read Jetsetters Magazine at To book travel visit at and for Beach Resorts visit Beach Booker at

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Rob LaGrone, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at Leave Your email next to the logo for FREE e travel newsletter.

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