RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Strutting in a rainbow of glittering colors, Rio's samba groups opened two days of Carnival parades with a dazzling show that included a rousing welcome for one of the elite bands that lost most of their elaborate costumes and floats in a fire last month.
The Portela group made a dramatic entrance into the throbbing Sambadrome stadium late Sunday, its 300-strong percussion section abruptly quieting its thundering drums and crouching down in a moment of silence for its losses in the fire.
The fire in early February ripped through warehouses where Portela and two other elite samba groups were preparing for Carnival, incinerating more than 8,000 feather and glitter costumes and many of the big, meticulously decorated floats. Once the shock passed, however, it became clear the 2011 Carnival would be marked more than ever by the festival's quintessential ability to bring hope and happiness, even if fleeting, to those who have little.
It also steeled samba group members' fierce allegiances in a city where fans are as devoted to their groups as they are to their soccer teams.