Despite heavy rain, Haiti revels in Carnival

theGRIO SLIDESHOW - It’s carnival time in Ayiti. Sunday kicked off with a bang with what appeared to be a few hundred thousand people piling into Champs de Mars for the 'Carnaval des Fleurs' – the Carnival of Flowers...

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It’s carnival time in Ayiti. Sunday kicked off with a bang with what appeared to be a few hundred thousand people piling into Champs de Mars for the “Carnaval des Fleurs” – the Carnival of Flowers.

Excited Haitians – families, youth, seniors, and a few troublemakers – began to make their way into the mile long stretch of the biggest party of the year around 4 p.m.

By 7 p.m., what appeared to be brief sun showers started. But it was far from brief. Within 15 minutes, the sky opened up and brown water gushed down the streets.

What did the already massive crowd do? They cheered and intensified the party. Only a handful appeared to have umbrellas. Passers-by exclaimed that rain cannot stop the carnival from going on. The rain did not let up for about 30 minutes and neither did the party. Even those still making their way into the corridor shook off their wet clothes after the downpour and forged a path into the carnival area.

If you shake to the music, you’ll dry off

A teenager told a woman in front of him who appeared frazzled by her wet clothes that if she started to shake to the music, she’d dry off.

Not everyone got wet. There were stands on balconies – private booths hosted by corporations, businesses, media stations, government ministries, and Haiti’s president, Michel Martelly.

Those who received a coveted invitation into the covered sections adorned themselves with flowers and wore colored t-shirts to distinguish their groups. They enjoyed drinks and music as they danced and waved to the decorated floats (‘chars’ in Haitian Kreyol) down below. The chars/floats carried the carnival queens dressed in beautiful floral outfits, along with popular musical bands, dance troops, and “ra-ra” entertainers. One singer named the rain ‘Nicole’ and told the crowd to join him in singing “bye bye Nicole.” The masses cheered and bid farewell to Mother Nature’s effort to get in on the fun.

The rain did not curb the enthusiasm during the first of three-days of carnival, which ends Tuesday. A man in his late thirties who was enjoying the festivities from the sidelines commented that he has been attending carnival since he was a child but admitted he can no longer party like he used to. People were friendly and groups locked arms as they made their way around.

Even though it was already packed, additional large crowds started flowing in around 10 p.m. The party doesn’t end until around 4 a.m. on each morning.

The government of Haiti was prepared for the crowds. The police and security presence was heavy and they quickly responded to the disruptions that typically occur during these types of large gatherings.

To say that Haitians party hard is an understatement. It was difficult to tell who was rich and who was poo,  and it was hard to believe that so many party-goers suffer from such high unemployment and poverty.

Monday night iis expected to be just a jubilant, but Mother Nature will probably sit this one out. Clear skies are forecast for Monday night.

Cleve Mesidor is spending six months in Haiti and was drenched in the rain, along with the crowd during day one of carnival. Follow her online at <a></aL or on Facebook and Twitter at <a href=””>@CMesi</a>.