It’s time to dust off the beaded and feathered costumes and brush up on some Samba dance skills, because Brazil is coming back to Las Vegas.
The Vegas Loves Brazil festival is set from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. April 5 and 6 at the Rio, 3700 W. Flamingo Road. The event is set to include Brazilian food and beverages, arts and crafts, carnival rides and bounce houses. More than 100 Brazilian artists, including Carlinhos Brown, Banda Cine and Carla Visi, are scheduled to perform.
“This year we wanted to make it bigger and better,” said organizer Ramon van Meer. “We just want people to experience Brazil and have fun doing it.”
Originally from the Netherlands, van Meer met his wife at a local nightclub and moved to Las Vegas six years ago.
“My wife is Brazilian, and I fell in love instantly with the culture through her,” van Meer said. “It’s just something I want to share with everyone.”
The idea to create a festival arose about two years ago when van Meer and his wife hosted Brazilian barbecues at a local park. About 25 people showed up at the first event, van Meer said.
“Since everyone had such a good time, I organized another one about two or three weeks later,” van Meer said. “Suddenly, instead of 25 people , more than 100 showed up. Most of them were Brazilian or married to Brazilians.”
Inspired to host a festival, van Meer contacted a few friends and began planning the first Vegas Loves Brazil event at the Clark County Amphitheater last year.
“With a limited marketing budget, we expected maybe 1,500 people to show up,” van Meer said. “We ended up with 6,000 attendees.”
Partnering with the Rio, van Meer extended the festival this year to two days and added about 20 carnival rides. The event is also set to host 45-minute Samba, capoeira (martial arts) and Samba percussion workshops.
“We want people to experience Brazil in its broadest form, with food, music and fun,” van Meer said. “We posted questions on our Facebook and got a lot of reactions from people on what they wanted at this event. We really listened to them.”
A 45-minute “Vegas Loves Brazil” show is scheduled each night to guide the audience on a trip through the South American country, showcasing different dances and music from the its regions.
“The country is so big and complex,” van Meer said. “The show is just a little taste of what the different regions are like.”
Van Meer said he came up with the name Vegas Loves Brazil after assessing his own feelings for the country.
“A lot of big cities have Brazilian festivals, and they name them Brazilian Day San Diego or Brazilian Day New York, but I didn’t want to do that,” van Meer said. “I know I love Brazil, but I wanted to make it more of a community thing and call it Vegas Loves Brazil.”
One of van Meer’s partners, Paulo Batuta, helped organize Brazilian Day San Diego, which typically draws 60,000 attendees, for the last seven years. Owning a capoeira studio in Las Vegas, Batuta said he heard about van Meer’s barbecues in the park and agreed to help him launch a festival.
“Las Vegas and San Diego are big tourist cities, and they’re a big demand for Brazilians,” Batuta said. “Americans have accepted our culture in a positive way, and (these festivals) are just another way to integrate our culture into society even more. It’s a way to exchange ideas and interact with each other.”
The local Brazilian community helped make the first Vegas Loves Brazil festival a success, according to van Meer. With its help, he hopes to double the number of attendees from last year.
“We are very blessed to have so much support from the Vegas Brazilian community,” van Meer said. “They really embraced the idea and helped us launch it.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit vegaslovesbrazil.com.
Contact Southwest View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0403.