Wow! That's all I can say! We arrived at the Sambadrome at 8 pm for a 10 pm start. The Sambodrome was built in 1984 specifically for Carnival and renovated for the 2016 Olympics. We wanted good seats because we were in section 9 which is a grandstand and no seats are assigned. Section 11 and 13 are in the distance and this is looking right towards the end of the performance street-
Looking to the left from our seats where the schools start-
Eventually the stands filled up-
There were 7 samba schools competing, but we only stayed for the first 3 because we had an 8 am city tour the next day. Each school is supposed to have only 45 minutes to go from one end of the Sambadrome to the other but each group took an hour. 90,000 people watch from the stands. We went to the cheap night which is the second level schools. We paid $79 US each. Cheap nights are Friday and Saturday while the top schools perform Monday and Tuesday. The winners from the cheap nights will move up next year and the last place schools in the top levels will move down.
Each school has 3000 to 5000 participants and a band of 200 to 400. Following the band are singers and each school plays the same 30 second tune over and over and over from the start of the runway to the end at maximum volume. People cheer for their school, which is really their community. Cheering and crowd involvement are important for scoring-
First the king, queen and princesses entered-
Elegant hooped skirts are called baianas and each school has a group of them-
Each school has 4 or 5 floats-
The next school can't start until the preceding one has left because they each play their own music. We were sitting in the same area as the judges so they performed quite a while in front of us. After 3 schools, we decided it was time to go home because it was after 1 am and there were still 4 schools to perform. On our way out, we saw lots of performers coming back into the stadium. It was very cool to see their costumes up close. Once outside, one of the towers on the Frankenstein float fell off and was leaning on power lines. Eventually they pushed the tower onto the ground and luckily no one was hurt. There could have been some pretty crazy "fireworks". We walked home amongst the masses and got to bed at 2. I wish we could have but in spite of leaving early??? it was an awesome night!