February 16, 2001

My 1st Carnaval in Rio

By Steve Spencer

My first Carnaval in Rio has had an enormous impact on my life. It was 1987, and I had just spent an incredible two weeks in Bahia. My friends in Salvador could not understand why I was leaving them to go spend Carnaval in Rio. They all assured me that their Carnaval was the best Carnaval in Brazil. I arrived in Rio and was awestruck by the natural beauty of the City. Granite mountains reaching to the sky and miles of beaches. Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado was a breathtaking site to behold. Our travel agent booked us at the Luxor Regente in Copacabana. One of my favorite things to do after the sun went down was to stroll up and down Avenida Atlantica and look at the arts and crafts that were on display. After purchasing a few souvenirs, I would head back to the patio at the Lucas Bar, order a Brahma Chopp, plate of fries, grilled chicken and watch the street theater unfold in front of me.

The street Carnaval in Rio was amazing. Organized samba bands and impromptu celebrations were everywhere. The Cariocas knew how to celebrate Carnaval. It seemed liked the whole city had come to a stop to join in the spirit of Carnaval. The freedom to party in the streets was a new experience for me. At times, the energy, excitement, music, samba, costumes was overwhelming. In San Diego they roll the streets up at 2 a.m. In Rio, the party is just getting started at 2 a.m. Cariocas are some of the friendliest people on earth. They love their Carnaval and are very proud to share it.

The "Samba Shrine" known as the Sambodromo was constructed to showcase the Carnaval Parade in Rio. It is an amazing structure that can accommodate in excess of 100,000 spectators and 80,000 Carnaval dancers, musicians, performers a night. I arrived at the Sambodromo with Carmen from San Francisco and Bill and Elaine from Los Angeles. We were seated in the Cadeira de Pista section (The seats costs $300 for this front row seating and were worth the money). The excitement was in the air. You could feel it, hear it, touch it and even taste it. The first Samba School was Unidos do Jacarezinho. It was like watching the opening act. They were colorful, and a very exuberant group but did not have the size, costuming, musicianship of what was to come.

I watched group after group compete for the title of #1 Samba School for 1987. They kept getting better and better. It was like watching Las Vegas on wheels. Someone once asked what does Carnaval feel like. The best answer I ever heard was "...You know that feeling you get at New Year's Eve that last about 15 seconds....Carnaval feels better than that and it last for days..."

I remained seated throughout the whole time until the arrival of Salgueiro. Wave after wave of Salgueiro's floats and dancers in glittering sequined feathered costumes passed our section. In the distance I heard the pounding of the Sourdos, the "ratta tat tat" of the Repeniques, and the "ga dagga dack"..."ga dagga dack" of the ganzas. The sound was getting closer and closer. Before I knew it the "Bateria" had arrived. Salgueiro's 500 percussionist sounded like thunder riding a locomotive. I kid you not, their raw energy and power caused the Sambodromo to shake. I have never heard anything like it before in my life.

Salgueiro is one of the premier Samba Schools in Rio, along with Mangueira, Portela, and Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel. They electrified the crowd and brought them to their feet when started singing their Samba Enredo (Theme Song) "Por Que Nao". It became like a mantra and I found myself singing it along with everyone else over and over and over. For me, Salgueiro was the best. They made a believer out of me. Unfortunately the judges did not see it that way and awarded 1st place to Mangueira. I liked Mangueira, but it was Salgueiro who rocked the Sambodromo.

As a result of my experience that night at the Sambodromo, it became my passion to bring some of that happiness, joy, and celebration of life to San Diego. In 1993, we promoted our first Carnaval in San Diego and have worked over the year's to make San Diego's Carnaval the best Carnaval outside Brazil.



Saturday, February 24, 2001, VARIG Brazilian Airlines presents San Diego Brazil Carnaval 2001. The 9th Annual Brazilian "Mardi Gras Ball" will be held at 4th and B Showcase Theater, 345 "B" Street, Downtown San Diego. Carnaval is the time for sparkling costumes and masked Kings and Queens. The excitement starts with the "Samba Contest" 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Registration is 8:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Renni Flores & Swingueira Baiana Band

The winner of the "Samba Contest" wins R/T tickets for two to Hawaii with accomo-dations thanks to Margo Tour and Promotional Travel Service.

Carnaval 2001 features Renni Flores & Swingueira Baiana Band, Josias dos Santos & Fogo Brasil Carnaval Band, "Special Guest" Emiliano Benevides, Samba Dancers in feathered costumes, Parades and Mardi Gras Beads. The winners of the Costume Contest and Door Prize are on their way to Brazil courtesy of VARIG Brazilian Airlines.

Dance the night away to the rhythms of Samba, Marchin-has, Frevo, Axé Music and Samba-Reggae as we take you on a Carnaval tour of Brazil with stops in Recife, Bahia and Rio.

General Admission: $20 in Advance / $25 at the Door. VIP Reserved Seating: $35 Advance / $40 at the Door For Tickets: call (619) 231-4343 / 21 and Up 8:00 to 2:00 a.m. Visit www.brazilcarnival.com


San Diego Carnaval Mardi Gras 2001 Schedule

Sun 18th 4th & B 345 B" St. Neville Brothers Mardi Gras Ball 8:30 pm
Wed 21st 4th & B 345 B" St. George Clinton 8:00 pm
Wed 21st LOOZIANA Redfish 731 5th King & Queen and Hot Sauce Contests 7:00 pm
Thur 22nd The Field 544 5th King & Queen Contest 7:00 pm
Fri 23nd Anna Brazil Carnaval Marina Village / 16 and Up 8:00 pm
Fri 23rd Dick's Last Resort King & Queen Contest Finals & Masquerade Ball 8:00 pm
Fri 23rd 4th & B 345 B" St Poncho Sanchez & Tierra 8:00 pm
Sat 24th 4th & B 345 "B" St Brazil Carnaval Ball 2001 / 21 and Up 8:00 pm
Sun 25th Sevilla CLUB Brazil 555 4th Ave. "Carnaval Sevilla" 9:00 pm
Tue 27th LOOZIANA Redfish 731 5th Gaslamp Mardi Gras Celebration 6:00 pm
Tue 27th Gaslamp Quarter Mardi Gras Parade 5th & "E" 9:00 pm
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