IMAGE: Carnival
Bruno Domingos  /  Reuters
Carnival revelers welcome a passenger from the world's largest ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2, after her arrival at the Port of Rio de Janeiro on Saturday. QM2 left Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Feb. 11.
updated 2/21/2004 4:25:03 PM ET 2004-02-21T21:25:03

After a night of partying, men in wedding dresses, women in nun’s habits, and imitation Arab sheiks danced with 40,000 others to traditional sambas on the second day of the world’s most famous carnival celebration Saturday.

Carnival began with the usual raucous crowds dancing in the streets. On Saturday morning, the hordes turned out for the Cordao de Bola Preta — one of the last traditional carnival brass bands. The band, whose name roughly translates to “Black Ball Band,” has played every carnival since 1918.

Jason Rouleau, a chef from Rhode Island, was among the revelers crowding around the sound truck holding the band as it blasted trumpets, trombones and tubas, instruments rarely used in carnival bands today.

“It’s amazing. It’s absolutely amazing,” Rouleau said as he danced in Cinelandia square. “It’s the first time I’ve experienced this. It’s nothing like I thought it would be. Words can’t describe it.”

The festivities, however, were tainted by a bus accident that killed 40 revelers on their way to the celebrations Saturday. The bus veered off the two-lane highway and plunge into a reservoir in the northeastern town of Barros.

400,000 tourists expected
Officials expect some 400,000 tourists to converge on the city for the five-day pre-Lenten bash. The Queen Mary 2, the world’s largest ocean liner, docked in Rio on Saturday for the celebration.

The band paraded down Rio Branco Avenue, the same road the official carnival parade used to follow before the city moved the celebration into the specially designed Sambadrome stadium in 1984.

Tickets for the Sambadrome celebration, the highlight of carnival, are too pricey for many Brazilians.

“There’s no class difference here. Anyone rich or poor, black or white, can parade with the Bola Preta,” said Olivia Leal da Silva, 74.

Parties across Brazil
Festivities were also underway in cities across Brazil.

In the northeastern city of Recife, tens of thousands of revelers crowded into the downtown area to dance to live music, while a samba parade much like Rio’s took place in a Sao Paulo stadium.

In the Afro-Brazilian city of Salvador da Bahia, festivities were going full throttle early Saturday after only short break for street cleaners to do their work.

In Rio, the colorful samba bands were gearing up for a competition Saturday to win a coveted spot in the lineup for the Sunday and Monday performances at the Sambadrome.

The Sambadrome performances will be beamed live across the nation and watched by millions on television and feature some 4,000 lavishly costumed dancers and drummers.

The performers come from 14 top samba “schools” — actually neighborhood groups, mainly from poor communities — that have spent the year preparing for their moment of glory.

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