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Brazilian Carnaval entertains students, community

Elizabeth O'Donnell | Monday, February 16, 2009

Students, faculty and members of the South Bend community packed South Dining Hall Friday night for the 11th annual “Brazilian Carnaval!”

“Carnaval!” is a take-off on the Brazilian Carnaval festival, which occurs four days before Fat Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Senior Julia Sendor, the student assistant to the Events Coordinator at the Kellogg Institute, said they had been planning for this year’s event since December.

“Since it is a yearly event, we draw on certain aspects of the celebration that we found were popular in previous years,” she said.

One of the signature events of the Carnaval celebration in Brazil is the bloco parade, which features schools of samba dancers, dancing costumes, music and entertainment.

The parade’s name comes from the tradition that groups of people form “blocos,” which is Portuguese for block. These blocks each are dressed in costumes relating to a specific theme or idea.

The event organizers introduced the bloco parade to the on-campus celebration this year as a new activity at “Carnaval!” While there were no samba schools to participate in the parade, there were plenty of costumed participants.

The bloco parade served as a costume contest at “Carnaval!” All costumed guests at the event were invited to join in the parade. They were then judged in groups of two to see which pair had the best costume.

While the parade served as one facet of the evening, there were many other activities that went on throughout the event.

Chicago Samba, a band that plays shows in both Chicago and Saint Louis, played on stage for a couple of hours to the crowd that had gathered. There was a large dance area filled with people listening and dancing to the Brazilian music.

There was also a group of dancers who came on stage to teach those at the event how to samba dance.

Door prizes were awarded throughout the evening.

“Carnaval!” received a lot of press around the South Bend area, which helped lead to a substantial turnout of attendees. Sendor said that she was surprised at the volume of people the event received.

“We were hoping for five or six hundred people to attend the event, but I was surprised that so many did show up,” she said. “We are keeping track by the number of beaded necklaces that we hand out as a means for keeping track of the number of people in attendance.”

A large percentage of the people in attendance were from the South Bend community. While there were many families in attendance, there were also a number of elderly people in attendance.

“This year we were hoping to have a higher turnout among the Notre Dame student population,” Sendor said. “This event helps to bridge the gap between the campus community and the rest of South Bend, so it was important that we try to connect them the best we can.”