Any large festive event needs a king and queen. Carnaval in Cozumel has many. There are of course the King and Queen of Carnaval, but 2 sets of runners-up then become the King and Queen of Happiness and the King and Queen of Fantasy. In addition, there are the kings and queens of the teen/youth, child, and diversity categories.
Each of these candidates is presented, and performs in multiple costumes, with props, stages, and multi-media presentations—complete with accompanying dance troupes— several times before the public votes to determine who will be royalty for this year. These are locally focused events but everyone is welcome. These events start late and finish very late, sometimes not even until early the next morning.
These pre-carnaval events are performed initially at sold-out ticketed events on Saturday nights. They are then repeated live on Sunday nights for free. Performances are held in the “carnaval” palace, which is currently a huge tent with tables, chairs, and additional bleacher seating. This tent is in front of the municipal building in Parque Andres Quintana Roo. The free Sunday events will have long winding lines waiting to enter.
Pro Tip: We have found that arriving an hour ahead is not too early. Being a wheelchair user, you will need access to seating at ground level and that can go fast. You can pass the time in line with food from the park vendors.
Candidates will even advertise with large banners around town and hire small drum bands to build excitement around them. The final round of performances will end with voting for the candidates. This voting starts at around 2 AM. Then there is music and dancing until the kings and queens are announced at 4 AM. Then, of course, celebratory music and dancing continue into the early morning.
In many ways, these big flashy dance performances are the most exciting part of Carnaval for me, and yet this is still considered pre-carnaval.