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Carnival 2017 off to a wild start in Brazil

From bloc parties for dogs to extravagant samba parades, Carnival celebrations are underway in Brazil. Things got off to a strange start when Rio's evangelical mayor skipped the opening ceremony.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday for Rio de Janeiro's oldest and biggest block party, the Bola Preta. In the past, the "Black Ball" has drawn up to 1 million revelers dressed in black and white to Rio's historic center. 

The five-day festival is expected to generate an estimated $1 billion (947,000,000 euros) in revenue for Rio, but the celebrations began on an odd note when the city's deeply religious mayor didn't show up for the starting ceremony on Friday.

After delaying the start of the ceremony for two and a half hours in the Sambodromo stadium, Mayor Marcelo Crivella never came. Instead, the city culture secretary arrived to give the carnival king or "Rei Momo" the ceremonial key to the city. When asked why Crivella, a retired evangelical bishop, did not attend, the culture chief said: "His wife is sick."

In Salvador, an enormous crowd gathered on Saturday to hear musicians Gilberto Gil and Caetana Veloso sing as they celebrated 50 years of the Tropicalia musical movement that they started.

Sao Paulo, Brazil's business capital, party-goers clogged traffic while its carnival parades made their way down a main city avenue.

Celebrations will continue across the country until Tuesday.

rs/jr (AP, Reuters, AFP)