By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As Carnival 2014 weekend arrives in Rio, the famous samba school parade competition is set to take place at the Sambódromo, drawing fans from around the world. Yet most of the city will also be out celebrating at the the hugely popular “Carnaval de rua” or street Carnival, known as blocos.
The open, free, street parties have become so popular the city reduced the number of official bloco licenses this year by five percent, to 465 over the month surrounding Carnival. Varying in theme, location and size, the popular public celebrations are going to hit full pitch this weekend.
In 2013, according officials, Carnival attracted about 5.3 million partygoers, of which 1.2 million were tourists. To help deal with the massive crowds organizers promised this year’s Carnival will feature an additional 33 percent of bathroom facilities at 9,200 locations.
Logistics aside, already the famous bloco, Simpatia É Quase Amor, celebrating its 30th anniversary brought an estimate 80,000 revelers together along Ipanema beach last weekend. Now as the official Carnival dates arrive, enthusiasts are planning their weekend bloco itinerary and outfits.
While many, but not all of the blocos have costumed participants, some of this weekend’s blocos are well-known for their themes like Santa Teresa’s Bloco das Carmelitas. The group traditionally pays homage to a nun – who fled the Carmelite Convent to take part in a Carnival procession – by wearing nun outfits and parading with a giant puppet of the legendary sister. This year it will begin at Rua Almirante Alexandrino at 3PM, on Friday, February 28th and expects 10,000 attendees.
On Saturday, March 1st, one of the most famous and largest blocos annually, Cordão da Bola Preta, will take place in Centro. Last year, a reported 1.8 million people joined the bloco’s parade and over 1.5 million are estimated again for this Saturday. It will begin on Avenida Rio Branco at 9:30 AM and is scheduled to last until approximately 2:30 PM.
The Copacabana bloco, Empolga às 9, will also parade on Friday beginning at 11AM on Avenida Atlântica, in front of Avenida Rainha Elizabeth. An estimated 15,000 are expected for that parade.
Additionally, Gávea’s bloco, Escangalha! will hold their procession at 11AM on Saturday. They will begin at Rua Major Rubens Vaz.
On Sunday, March 2nd beginning at 10AM, family-friendly bloco Bangalafumenga will meet near the Monumento dos Pracinhas in Aterro do Flamengo. An estimated 80,000 people are expected for their parade, which should last until 2PM.
Thriller Elétrico, a bloco that blends the best of Michael Jackson’s hit songs with the rhythms of samba, will also parade on Sunday beginning at 10AM in Vila Isabel’s Praça Barão de Drummond.
On Monday, March 3rd, the Laranjeiras bloco of Volta, Alice anticipates more ten thousand partygoers in attendance as the group makes it way from Rua Alice beginning at 10AM.
The Centro bloco of AfroReggae will also begin at 10AM on Monday. They and an estimated following of 150,000 will make their way from Avenida Rio Branco to Cinelândia.
On Tuesday, March 4th, the bloco of Rio Maracatu will begin at Avenida Vieira Souto near Posto (Lifeguard stand) 8 in Ipanema and proceed with an estimated 10,000 others to Posto 9.
While Ash Wednesday falls on March 5th and many Carnival celebrations end, various blocos will continue to celebrate throughout the city until March 9th. For the full schedule of the weekend and more upcoming blocos by day, name and/or region see here.
For those new to Carnival, Priscila Pio Lima of Mundo Brasil language school in Copacabana offers some tips, “First, the obvious things, wear sunscreen and drink lots of water! Also take good care of any valuable possessions. I would also advise people to arrive early!”