Amid a cacophony of samba drums and sequinned dancers, Rio residents prepared to launch themselves into five days of hedonistic entertainment with the start of the city's legendary carnival.
The metropolis of six-million has been gearing up for weeks for Friday's official start of the world's biggest street party, as carnival 'sovereign' King Momo receives the keys of the city from the mayor in a symbolic handover of 'power' for the duration.
Momo this year will be portrayed by Wilson Dias da Costa Neto, a smiling, moonfaced 27-year-old.
This year's festivities are set to be even more frenzied than usual as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup for a month from June 12.
A dozen samba schools will go up against each other Sunday and Monday in the Special Parade which will draw around 70,000 spectators to the city's fabled Sambadrome.
The schools, each comprising thousands of performers, will parade along the 700-meter (yard) Marqués de Sapucai avenue leading to the Sambodrome designed by celebrated Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
But countless street groups or 'blocos' are also getting in on the act, led by the Cordão da Bola Preta, Rio's oldest group founded in 1918 which will gather an estimated 1.8 million people.
Cordao da Bola Preta means black dot string -- according to local lore, pretty women in polka dot dresses would in days gone by draw the locals out into the streets as if on a string.
Dozens of other blocos will also parade in different parts of town -- including Sargento Pimenta (Sergeant Pepper), who will Monday pound out Beatles music to a samba beat.
Adding to the millions of local revelers, the city hall expects 918,000 tourists to throng the jam-packed streets -- some two percent more than last year -- with revenues forecast at around $400 million.
They will more than make up for those residents who pack their bags at this time of year to escape the din.
Police have stepped up security and erected protective scaffold around some buildings in the centre of Rio, which will host seven World Cup matches, including the July 13 final and then welcome the 2016 Olympics.
The city has been the scene of sporadic public protests in recent months against political corruption and the multibillion cost of staging two sports extravaganzas.
Thursday evening saw the Ocupa Carnaval pressure group hold a spoof mini-carnival, donning Indian headdresses in solidarity with Brazil's indigenous poor, some of whom have been expelled in recent months from around Rio's fabled Maracana stadium.
Some in the group held aloft giant puppets representing city rulers, their pockets stuffed with money; others linked arms with the tentacles of a huge black model octopus representing the long reach of corrupt politicians.
"But tomorrow's carnival and that is sacred. There won't be protests -- it's a valve to let out the frustration with politics, one local, Reinaldo Alves dos Santos, told AFP Thursday.
Cariocas, as Rio residents are known, are renowned for being body conscious to the point of obsession and many of their lurid carnival costumes, depicting anything from devils to nuns, policemen and pirates to nurses, are not for the prudish.
With Brazil reaching the end of a sultry Southern Hemisphere summer, sweat will pour down toned bodies, only adding a note of sensuality.
- Football, Ronaldo, Zico -
Throughout, the non-stop samba beat will propel the huge gyrating crowd along, each bloco's line of revelers extending for several hundred metres down the street, almost merging with neighboring groups.
By Sunday night, some four million people will have let their hair down and many will carry on through Tuesday's official close and beyond.
Rio is, however, by no means alone in its carnival cravings.
Northeastern city Salvador de Bahia, the cradle of Brazil's African heritage, also hosts huge blocos who have since Wednesday been parading in the paved streets of the city's historic old town Pelourinho.
Further north, Recife and neighboring Olinda host thousands of dancers performing the "frevo", a rhythm inspired by martial arts-cum dance capoeira, led by the "Galo de Madrugada" (morning cockerel) troupe.
Business hub Sao Paulo, while more staid than Rio, also has a sambodrome and Saturday will host its own parades, one honoring retired soccer world champion and all-time World Cup top scorer Ronaldo.
In Rio, football gets a further nod with the Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school paying tribute to 1980s star Zico.