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I really do love how tradition and pop culture saunter together in the mob scene of  Carnevale. Venice’s Carnevale 2017 celebration spans just a little over two weeks, beginning with a festival on the water (Festa Veneziana sull’acqua) at the Rio di Cannaregio during the weekend of February 11th and 12th. I was advised to arrive early as there would be a rather large crowd. Thank goodness I heeded the advice. My friends and I found some very good spots along the edge of the canal. We only had to avoid the careening gondolas just once. Hey, if there’s not an element of danger, then how much fun could it be, right?

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The opening night was magic. Trapeze artists, singers, and fire dancers wearing costumes of diaphanous light performed on gondolas up and down the river. Light splayed across the buildings across the canal, while blobs of giant jellyfish flowed in mesmerizing patterns through the air.

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The second part of the festival consisted of a parade of boats, followed by free food and drink for everyone. The parade on the water was organized by the Coordinamento Associazioni Remiere di Voga alla Veneta. People in historical (and not-so-historical) costumes were seen rowing down the same river, the Rio di Cannaregio. I witnessed a boat full of folks in inflatable sumo wrestler costumes, and I think the announcer called it the “sushi” boat. Okay, maybe this was lost in translation, and perhaps he meant to say the “sumo” boat. Nevertheless, it was most definitely a sight.

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Another sight — the Aperol Spritz boat giving away free Aperol spritz and cicchetti (I’ll post later about the deliciousness of cicchetti). Okay, first of all, did I mention that stands were giving away FREE food and drink all along the river during the festival? I found this incredible, probably because I’ve never seen this anywhere else in the world. But apparently this is a tradition for Carnevale. If you were lucky, you received hot food, like lasagna or warm spaghetti. If you were not so lucky, like myself, you received cold spaghetti after being pushed and elbowed by the crowd. Be forewarned: the crowd swell of folks clamoring for free food, spritz, and wine was like crashing tidal waves. You either had to go with the flow of the crowd or get crushed. Not a pretty sight, and I think I yelped once or twice. But look at the professionals here pouring spritz for the thirsty crowd…

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Circling back to the pop culture references… I’ve seen my share of creative cosplay at the San Diego Comic-Con. However, it seems cosplay isn’t limited to comic conventions, because here in Venezia, not only do you see Transformers, but the Transformers here have dogs–multiple dogs!–in baby strollers.

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