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Thousands are dancing the Samba this weekend along Ipanema beach,Rio de Janeiro in a pre-festival party ahead of the city’s big carnival.

This annual shindig is named after the street band that leads it, “Simpatia? Quase Amor,” which roughly translates to “Friendliness is Almost Love.”

Designer Monica Marta has participated in the block party since it first started three decades ago:

“Carnival for me is a place of protest, of irreverence, it’s where we send a message, make a demand and also express some joy, happiness and it shakes things up,” she said. “And 30 years of “Simpatia” (sympathy), it’s very exciting,” added Marta.

The band will lead another parade and block party when the Carnival begins this Friday February 28.

With the World Cup just over three months away, the tourist spotlight is on Brazil.

Five million people are expected to join Rio carnival party next weekend, a fifth of them visitors.

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