February 9, 2002

Rio de Janeiro heats up for annual carnival

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) --Revelers began pouring on to the streets of Rio
Saturday, dancing to the beat of traveling bands, ahead of the city's annual official
carnival parade that attracts thousands of tourists.

The official parade Sunday and Monday in the Sambadrome stadium will be the
centerpiece of international television cameras.

Celebrities, such as former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush, will attend. But attention is
likely to be focussed on dancers from the city's 14 top Samba schools.

On Saturday, "blocos" or "bandas" -- small neighborhood parades -- drew between
dozens to thousands of dancers, swaying feverishly behind bands playing traditional
carnival tunes.

"I think the street parades are the most fun," said Jerry Roth from Los Angeles as he
stepped out of Rio's glamorous Copacabana Palace hotel. "I'm here every year, but I
don't go to the Sambadrome parade. It's too claustrophobic."

Street carnivals cater to varied groups. They include "Bloco of the Retired" or the
"Dalailata" -- meaning "Dalai-can" -- an environmentally conscious group that plays
samba on instruments exclusively made out of recycled materials.

As thousands of revelers flocked into Rio's streets, city officials worked overtime to
provide sanitation facilities and to keep the city free of mosquitos carrying the
dengue fever virus.

A dengue outbreak in Rio since January has killed six people and affected more than
7,000 others. Dengue causes fever, headaches, pain throughout the body and rashes
on the palms and feet.

To avoid a further spread of the disease during carnival, a task force of more than
1,000 sanitation workers has been spraying mosquito nesting grounds with
insecticide -- even in the Sambadrome stadium.

Health authorities advised tourists to use insect repellent three times a day.

Refusing to let health concerns dampen spirits, Cariocas -- as Rio's inhabitants are
called -- and tourists alike continued to party Saturday.

Among the most colorful was the "Banda de Ipanema," which was started in 1965
by artists and intellectuals, and transformed into a carnival version of a gay pride

Over 100,000 tourists are expected during the five-day carnival celebrations in Rio
that end on Ash Wednesday.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press