On Friday, February 24, millions of revellers took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro to mark the start of Rio Carnival 2017. Traditionally the Carnival begins when the symbolic city keys are handed over to the carnival king. The country shuts down during the event, which runs until the following weekend, streets empty and most businesses close doors.

The famous Rio parades started on the very first day of Carnival, with several samba schools warming up for the elite “special group” samba schools like Mangueira and Beija Flor, who competed all through Sunday and Monday nights.

The parades were intense. As many as 3,000 performers at a time danced and sang in outrageously over-the-top costumes.

This year, Samba school Portela (photo) won Rio Carnival parade after 33 years with a spectacular performance that high-lighted the environmental importance of rivers. Portela had last won the parade contest in 1984. But it still holds more titles than all of Rio’s other samba schools, with 22 in total.

With the theme “Brazil’s river life, the school highlighted the native fish and man’s relationship to water, but it also emphasized the human and environmental impact of the Samarco mining disaster, which left nine people dead in 2015.

Portela was founded in 1923 in the Madureira neighborhood in the north of Rio, and it is considered one of the most traditional samba schools in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil’s 2018 carnival Sunday will be on February 11th. Don’t miss a wonderful chance to enjoy Rio de Janeiro’s party atmosphere. You have plenty of time to plan ahead.