From Mike Janela in Teresina, Brazil
If there's one thing Brazilians know how to do, it's throw a party. And if there's one party they have mastered, it's Carnaval.
So much so, in fact, that the Brazilian city of Teresina has taken to throwing what it calls a "pre-Carnaval" party one week prior. And that's where I visited last Saturday for the annual "Curso do Zé Pereira" parade. My mission? To verify if the northeastern capital city could lay claim to the Guinness World Records feat for the "largest parade of floats."
Steeped in tradition - the parade has origins dating to 1940 - the "Curso do Zé Pereira" has exploded in popularity in recent years. What used to number crowds in the hundreds for the festival has grown to what city officials estimated at 40,000 in attendance this year.
But the question wasn't about the number of people - it was about the number of eligible floats and how many of them could complete Teresina's 7.3-km (4.54 mi) long parade route.
In the event, the Brazilians succeeded with flying colors, as the Prefecture of Teresina paraded a record-establishing 343 floats in a ceremony that lasted more than six-and-a-half hours.
What impressed me most was the wide variety of floats and participants. Speaking with members of city hall, they took great pride in the fact that - unlike their more famous Carnaval counterparts in Rio de Janeiro or Salvador - the Curso do Zé Pereira is completely free for all to participate. Find a truck, decorate a float, and you and your rowdiest bunch of friends are more than welcome to join the party.
This led to floats celebrating everything from Disney princesses to ancient Egypt to John Lennon. One common thread? Lots of colour.
Another? Lots of creativity. One of the most popular floats featured a Volkswagen Beetle outfitted with a helicopter platform above it, complete with pilot and rotor operator.
The joke at a press conference after the event was that the Teresinian government had previously assumed "if we have the largest float parade in Brazil, it must also be the biggest in the world."
No more assumptions necessary - Teresina is certainly tops now.