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Carnival fever seizes Brazil as parades, block parties kick off

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
updated 11:43 AM EST, Sun February 19, 2012
A reveler from the Grande Rio samba school performs at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, early Tuesday, February 21. Countries around the world celebrate before the beginning of Lent with balls, parties, and parades with floats and costumed dancers. A reveler from the Grande Rio samba school performs at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, early Tuesday, February 21. Countries around the world celebrate before the beginning of Lent with balls, parties, and parades with floats and costumed dancers.
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Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
Carnival celebrations around the world
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pounding drums and fireworks explosions announce the start of each samba school
  • The five-day Carnival in Rio started Friday
  • Neighborhoods across the city host block parties that attract thousands

Rio de Janeiro (CNN) -- Carnival revelers descended on Rio de Janeiro, flocking to hundreds of block parties and cramming into designated areas to watch elaborate parades from dusk until dawn.

Pounding drums and fireworks explosions announced the start of each samba school that parades down the emblematic strip, flanked by stands with seating for 80,000 spectators.

Dancers with platform heels and little else posed for photographers before bursting onto the dazzling pavement.

Brazil's big party
Carnival has started in Brazil

Just before the lavish floats hit the Sambadrome, cranes lowered feathered dancers onto podiums where they will dance and swivel their hips nonstop for 40 minutes.

But the five-day Carnival in Rio, which started Friday, is more than just the official parades.

Neighborhoods across the city host block parties that attract revelers by the thousands -- sometimes more than a million. They drink and dance behind samba bands that wind their way through the streets.

This year, about 850,000 tourists descended on Rio for Carnival celebrations, according to tourism officials.

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