One of the world’s largest parties, Carnival is virtually synonymous with Rio. Held over five days of revelry from the Friday to the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday, residents of Rio begin the partying months in advance.
Parades featuring elaborate floats flanked by thousands of pounding drummers and twirling dancers is the culmination of the festivities.
THE MAKING OF CARNIVAL
The costumes are extremely imaginative, colorful, elaborate, and detailed. They are truly original, designed, and made from scratch each year. They have mirrors, feathers, metallic cloth, silk, and sometimes gems or coins. The work starts roughly 8 months before the celebrations.
The samba schools generate thousands of jobs since work has mobilized generations of freelance professionals and craftsmen.
Each of the 12 samba schools of the top-level group has a preset amount of time (90 minutes) to parade from one end of the Sambadrome to the other with all its thousands of dancers, its drum section, and several floats. Each school has its unique qualities according to its traditions. Schools are graded by a jury, and the competition is ferocious. On Ash Wednesday, grades are gathered and one school is declared the winner.
The Parade of Champions is held the following Saturday featuring the five winning samba schools in the Special Group category. It is a great honor to be named Champion of Carnival.
The Sambadrome (“Sambódromo” in Portuguese) was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and built in 1984. It consists of a 700 m stretch of the Marquês de Sapucaí street converted into a permanent parade ground with bleachers built on either side for spectators. Its capacity is 90,000.
The complex includes an area located at the end of the parade route, the Praça da Apoteose (Apotheosis Square), where the bleachers are set further back from the parade area, creating a square where revelers gather as they end their parade.