The carnaval parade was incredible. It's one of those things you have to see to believe. It lasted from 9:00 pm Monday night until 5:30 am Tuesday morning and I didn't feel tired until around 4:30.
Here's a few things that maybe you didn't know about the parade:
1)Big City Carnaval Parade ≠ New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade
Carnaval itself is crazy, but the parade is pretty tame. Sure, there's a fair share of skimpy bikini-clad samba dancers, but nothing worse than you’d seen on the beach here. You have to buy expensive tickets to the event and you have an assigned seat; in New Orleans it's a free for all. And, there is no free stuff being thrown from the floats, such as shiny beads or cheap plastic cups, so the spectators don't feel a need to remove their clothing because it's not going to get them anything.
2) The Parade is not continuous.
The parade is actually 6 separate parades; 6 Samba schools each have 80 minutes from the time the first person crosses the start line until the last person crosses the finish line. There is about a 15 minute break in between each school; the start of each new school is marked by a big firework show.
3) The costumes??? Amazing, but not comfy.
Each school has between 3,000-4,500 participants and they are all dressed in intricate, detailed costumes. The best part of our night was that we were front row and just inches from the paraders and their awesome costumes. It was so fun to watch the faces of the people going by-everyone was so happy and excited. Here were some of my favorites:
Guapo and I had the chance to don some of those costumes and march in the parade. It was quite an unforgettable experience. We left our seats at 1:00 am to carry our huge costumes to the start of the Avenida, where we got dressed and then waited, in the very uncomfortable costumes, for 45 minutes before our school kicked off. I thought I was going to pass out or throw up most of the 45 minutes and I kept having this little voice say, "what are you going to do if you have to go to the bathroom?" because of course there were no bathrooms in sight and I couldn't take off and put all my stuff back on in time even if there had been. Luckily, nature was kind and it wasn't a problem.
Finally around 2:00am our school started and we danced/jumped around down the Avenida for an hour. My head was KILLING me. Check out my head gear (it hurts me just to look at this picture):
(Yes, that's an oil rig with a black feather for the gushing oil)
I left my camera with friends so they could take pictures of us in the parade (which ended up being totally blurry and therefore of no practical use), so I don't have any pictures of us completely dressed. Some other, smarter people were with, decided to keep their camera with them and they have pictures of us fully dressed. When they send them to me, I will post one of the complete costume. For now, here I am, post-march, with my and Guapo's costumes:
What am I supposed to do with these costumes now? They are huger than any of our closets, but how can get rid of them? What an awesome souvenir from Brazil.
See my blue shirt? Yeah. Everyone else had black shirts on. No one bothered to mention to us that we needed black shirts. We were the stupid gringos with blue shirts. Worse than that, no one mentioned The Song.
4) The Song.
Each school has a song that goes with their performance. During the parade, each school's song is repeated over and over and over the entire 80 minutes and every single member of the school is signing it. So that the spectators can join in on all of the singing fun fun, a CD with the songs from the 12 schools comes out in October.
We did not know this; we spent the entire time lip synching our song. My method was to spin around a lot so no one could get a really good look at my mouth.
5) Every year at least one floats starts on fire.
This year was no exception, the one below, which was one of the coolest that we saw, broke down right in front of us and was smoking like crazy. The funny thing was was that the paraders just keep right on smiling, shaking, dancing and singing The Song as if nothing at all were happening.
(see the smoke?)
6) This is a SERIOUS competition.
The 12 school that get to participate in the "Big Parade" go all out. We were told that the judges' decision is bigger than the country's presidential election; that as soon as the decision is announced there are accusations of bribery, intrigue and subversion. Sure enough, today when the results were announced, and our school, which had won the whole thing just two short years ago and has received rave reviews in the local papers yesterday and today, came out in 9th place our building's guard was certain there had been some monkey business going on. I'm thinking maybe it was the blue shirts.
Am I sad our school was robbed of it's deserved glory? Frankly, I am quite relieved. The top 6 march again on Saturday night and I just couldn't pull off another all nighter OR put that oil-rig head contraption on again!