Carnaval De Nice Cotedazur ClupariniCarnaval De Nice Cotedazur Cluparini
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In the wings of the Nice Carnival

The Côte d’Azur’s flagship event, famed throughout the world, the Nice Carnival takes many months of upstream preparation and hard work. Before, during and after the party, hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers are busy backstage, making sure everything runs seamlessly.

Preparing the Carnaval

The carnival theme and very-creative “Ymagiers”

It all starts with the choice of a carnival theme… “King of the Seas and Oceans” upcoming in 2025, “King of Pop Culture” in 2024 or “King of Space” in 2018: a succession of ultra-varied worlds that make every carnival unique. “The final decision on the theme is down to Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice, but we put forward a few ideas we find interesting both visually and in terms of storyline and tell him which one we like best”, explains Nice Carnival director Caroline Constantin. Once the theme has been chosen, artists, graphic designers, illustrators, etc. – referred to as “Ymagiers” – take part in a bid to tender launched by Nice City Council to designate the creative minds in charge of designing the floats, drawing inspiration from popular imagery (mythical and allegorical characters, as well as local, political and social satire). The selected drawings are then magicked into floats and giant heads by passionate and talented carnival volunteers at the Maison du Carnaval workshop (a hangar in the Riquier quarter) and Halle Spada, in the Saint-Roch quarter.

When the floats and costumes come to life

Traditionally, papier mâché (made with a mixture of paper, glue and flour) is cast in plaster moulds to bring the various effigies to life, although some artists prefer using polyester resin these days. The resulting charaters are painted then dressed. The skeleton of each float comprises a metal frame covered with fabric. And then, of course, come the costumes. “The dancers on each float are from the local dance schools. The volunteers put forward ideas for their costumes according to the theme of the float. The costumes for the flower battle ambassadors are created by costume designer Caroline Roux, who has been designing for the carnival for around a decade”, says Nice Carnival director Caroline Constantin. It takes 60 to 200 hours (for the most intricate designs) to make each costume!

Let the party begin!

The tension mounts…

D-Day is here and the party has started! In all, 1,600 people parade through the streets of Nice every year during the carnival, so the organization has to be faultless: “The flower battle ambassadors are prepped by professional hairdressers and makeup artists: 8 people for 14 girls! The day starts at 8 am, even though the parade isn’t until 2 pm,” explains Caroline Constantin. “We call the mounting carnival fever “carnavaline”. The atmosphere in the lodges is pretty grass roots, with batucada musicians, stilt walkers and dancers all mingling together. It’s not all rose-tinted either – there’s shouting and arguments too, just like in real life.” And what about during the processions? “It’s very sporty! We walk around with a headset and stopwatch. It’s very intense because everything is in real time: even with the same floats and the same decorations, we simply can’t guess what will happen from one parade to the next. So, every time is a first, a genuine street opera. It’s very exciting and everyone ends up losing their voice!”.

Flowers galore

The Flower Battle logistics are just as demanding: each of the 14 floats is decorated with 3,000 fresh flowers (carnations, roses, daffodils, gladioli, gerberas, strelitzias, dahlias, lilium and mimosa), 80% of which are grown locally. All the flowers are distributed to the public during the flower battles. “Imagine a float that sets out laden with flowers and comes back looking like a skeleton,” says Caroline Constantin. In order for the show to begin again, the florists have to patiently plant 3,000 more fresh flowers in the float’s floral foam, one by one…

And after the show?

And there it is, Nice Carnival is over… Until next year! “First of all we relax and have a drink,” says Caroline Constantin with a smile. “The decorations belong to the carnival volunteers, so they can do what they like with them. The troupes also own their costumes and can sometimes use them again if they’re organizing a show. The flower battle and effigy costumes belong to the city council and are put in storage. They form the DNA of the Nice Carnival.”