It seems the whole of Rio exists only for the Samba parade. This is obvious if you happen to attend the Carnival in days leading to the first day of Lent. The establishments allow their workers to participate in the revelry and owners close down shop early.
All the people can be found dancing in the streets as they follow around the street bands that march through narrow paths and wide boulevards while enjoining spectators to join in.
The Sambadrome, named after famed anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro, is the epicenter of the whole Samba parade.
King Momo, accompanied by her queen, opens Carnival on Friday, which will be the first day of parades.
It starts with the Gold or Access Group parading on Friday and Saturday and then continues on Sunday and Monday with the Special Group Parade.
The young performers of the Children’s Parade will do their show on Tuesday. You are practically looking at the future of samba since the top schools typically choose from among these children to represent them in the future competitions once they are grown up.
The events unofficially end on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday; unofficially, because some of the partying continues until the next weekend.
On Ash Wednesday, the winner of the Special Group is announced and the performers come back to the Sambadrome on Saturday to parade again at The Winner's Parade. At this farewell performance, the pressure is off, so dancers and band get to have some fun.
It takes the samba schools months to conceptualize the themes, compose the samba songs, sew the ornate and colorful costumes, build the majestic floats and choreograph the dances.
The communities surrounding these samba schools are very active in helping with the preparations.
Tourists can visit them samba schools through several parties they organize as early as five months prior to the Carnival.
To be adjudged the overall champion, they have to impress 40 judges who will be seated all around the Sambadrome. The judges will take into account the dances, the consistency with the chosen theme, the intricacy and creativity of the costumes and props, the design of the floats, the skills of the dancers, particularly the Flag Bearers, and the dexterities of the drummers.
At the Sambadrome, you can watch Mocidade, Salgueiro and Mangueira, among others, strut their stuff to thousands of onlookers that will surely be etched into your memory for the rest of your life.
It’s not uncommon to bump into repeat tourists at the Carnival.
Don’t make your trip to Rio during the Carnival a spur-of-the-moment thing.
The trip takes careful planning and a lot of strategizing to make sure you arrive on time by booking your flight tickets way ahead of time; or finding your ticket to get inside the Sambadrome on Carnival Sunday and Monday.
There are many seating arrangements to choose from, like the luxury suites if you have the money, the grandstands if you are on a strict budget, or the open boxes called the frisas, which are touted to offer the best view of the Samba parade.