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Last Updated: Monday March 07 2011 09:21 GMT

PICTURES: Rio de Janeiro's spectacular annual carnival

A reveler of Imperatriz Leopoldinense samba school performs at the Sambadrome during the first night of carnival parades in Rio de Janeiro

It's Carnival time in Brazil where parades are held across the country over a four-day weekend.

Revellers of the Vila Isabel samba school participate in the annual Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro

Incredible time and effort goes into making the spectacular costumes and floats.

An Unidos da Tijuca samba school dancer performs during a carnival parade at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro

Samba schools all over the country compete with each other for the ultimate prize - a trophy and bragging rights!

A reveler competes in Rio's  Sambadrome

This woman's samba school in Rio thought they wouldn't be able to compete when in February a massive fire ripped through more than 3,000 of their costumes...

The Portela samba school parades through the Sambadrome during carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro

They're called the Portela - and their 300 drummers held a moment of silence for its losses in the fire when they entered the Sambadrome, where the contest takes place.

Spectacular costumes and floats in Rio's Carnival

Preparations for the parades go on all year round, with the event finishing on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday - what we call Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day!

A reveller of the Unidos da Tijuca samba school participates in the annual Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro

The samba dance schools, which are the focus of the main parade, are almost all based in the city's favelas or shanty towns - some of the poorest parts of Rio.

Revellers of the Sao Clemente samba school participate in the annual Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro

Each samba school picks a social or historical theme which is reflected in their costumes, floats and music. We're not sure what theme these guys decided on!

Dancers of Sao Clemente samba school perform during the first night of Carnival parades at the Sambadrome, in Rio de Janeiro

We're not sure we'd want to get a taxi ride from these guys!

Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldinho

You're always likely to see a few famous faces at Carnival - here's Brazilian football legend Ronaldinho!