Like Alice in Wonderland who fell down the rabbit hole and encountered a whole group of mythical characters, we stepped into the Sambadrome and encountered a fantasy world like none I have ever seen; complete with ghosts and goblins, gorillas and elephants, Captain Hook and Indiana Jones.
Carnaval found its roots in Rio de Janeiro in 1641 as the bourgeoisie from Paris held lavish masquerade balls with costumes and parties that lasted all night long. In the late 19th century “blocos” (blocks) were added where neighborhoods organized parades through the streets centered around a theme. Eventually Carnaval turned into a multimillion dollar competition where 12 samba schools (6 on Sunday and 6 on Monday) compete for the title of Carnaval Champion.
The competition is held in the Sambadrome, a mile long street where neighborhood schools financed by corporations and illegal gambling groups put on a showcase like no other in the world. Each samba school works for 8 months on costumes, dances and floats spending between $10 to $15 million dollars to put on an hour and ten minute show. Judges watch every move and every minute as the samba schools put it all on the line.
It is a night of fantasy that does not disappoint but be prepared to come early, we showed up at 5:30pm for a 9pm start that lasted until the sun came up the next morning. Each samba schools begins with a firework exhibition and puts on a show followed by the street being cleaned and ready for the next school. By the end of the night your neighbors are your friends or your enemies depending on how much you have had to drink. We found a lot of friends. Everyone brings food, drink and cameras and settles down for a long fun night. Our night at the Sambadrome was nothing short of fantastic and lived up to everything I hoped, the floats were nothing short of spectacular, the colors were vibrant and the dancing was magnificent. Here are a couple of pictures, I will post more on facebook. Enjoy!