Festivals here on the island of Sao Miguel are seldom a solemn event and are filled with good food, great music, and lots of live entertainment. The month of February on the island is no exception. Generally, the main festivals end in October and do not begin again until the spring, however, this winter event is one of the islands best. The Azores islands, which are a short flight from mainland Europe and North America put their own unique twist on Mardi Gras celebrations. It is here where everything from Masquerade balls to water balloon fights takes place in the capital city of Ponta Delgada. This is a great event for children and families since there is a large costume parade where all the locals celebrate in festive costumes to mark the celebration. Here you can see little Minnie and Mickie mouse’s happily marching in the children’s parade, where no expense is spared in making this one of the liveliest events of the year. This has always been a favorite time with locals with many participating in the black-tie galas that take place during the week. It all begins with a large Masquerade ball that takes place at the Coliseu Micaelense. This is one of the largest events with everyone making a point of stopping in before or after one of the many parties that take place. One of the most elaborate parties on the island is at the exclusive Clube Micaelense in the downtown city square. Here the landed gentry celebrates with a celebratory ball with various matinée events taking place for the children. This is a members-only club and is invite-only, however, if you know a member the experience is quite memorable and is worth visiting. The annual debutante ball that has taken place on the island for over 150 years takes place during this festive time. It is a tradition that began in the 1850s when the young ladies from the region’s most influential families would be presented to society, marching down the gilded walkway with their father who would be announced for the crowd once they became 18. This is an old tradition that has still found its way into the 21st century where the annual debutante balls still exist in various places like Paris, Vienna, and New York, and is one of only two places in Portugal where this is still celebrated. The large water balloon fight is not only celebrated in Ponta Delgada but has become a favorite for children in all the parish communities on the island. It is here that the locals celebrate with an elaborate water balloon fight, with many of the streets closed for the event. Thousands of water balloons are filled with local groups all competing to have the most balloons in their war chest during the water battle. It is a fun, friendly event and there are rules that are followed to prevent injuries. The water fight is limited to those participating in the parade and not meant for the spectators that just want to watch. The balloons are not to be thrown above the chest and are meant for fun and splashing not to injure. Some teenagers have taken the water balloon fight to the next level and wear hockey-style masks and protective clothing just in case it gets too rowdy. The event has always been one that brings a lot of joy to the locals after a grey winter season and most obey the rules, and that is the reason why the event continues to take place annually. The city is covered in water and colorful balloon pieces and after the event, many local volunteers work diligently cleaning up, to ensure none of the waste makes its way into the ocean or drains pipes. If you are planning on attending a carnival on the island, it is a must to have a black tuxedo since there is a dress code at the Coliseum and other venues during the celebration, with no entry, permitted to a gentleman without a tuxedo. Tickets for the various dinners and cocktail parties are available on the island and should be purchased in advance as these are sold out events each year. This event is like New Years eve and you should be prepared to stay up late. Much of the celebration, dancing, and partying takes place late in the evening, going early into the morning hours. It is not uncommon to see men and women still in their tuxedos and gowns the next morning at the local bakery or restaurant just finishing up their night, as it is one of those events where times flys when you’re having fun.