PARATY, Brazil - Extravagant costumes need not apply at the "Bloco da Lama" Carnival street party, where revelers dispense with pirate, princess and devil disguises in favor of thick, head-to-toe layers of black mud.
Thousands of revelers, their bikinis and shorts invisible beneath the black coating and their hair frozen into mud Mohawks, danced, drank and flung mud balls as sound trucks blasted bone-jarring rhythms in this colonial Brazilian town.
Saturday's fun was contagious and just about everyone got into it, from sculptured gym bunnies rubbing down their impeccable abs, to fuller figured people smearing handfuls of the stuff over spare tires, to old ladies and children giddy with disbelief that the whole thing was actually happening. Even a Belgian Shepherd named Thunder rolled in the mud, his fuzzy auburn fur temporarily as slick and black as an otter's.
Gangs of mud-covered revelers called out to the clean, "want a hug" and tried to catch unsullied passers-by in muddy group embraces. Everyone struggled to snap selfies with smartphones that were getting dirtier by the second.
Fans of the "Bloco da Lama," which literally translates as "mud street party," insist the event is among the most democratic of the thousands of booze-filled parties that take over Brazil's streets throughout Carnival.
"You don't need to buy anything, you don't need to spend any money, your costume is here for the taking," said 28-year-old actress Diana Rodrigues, as she pointed to the naturally occurring mud banks along the Jabaquara beach in Paraty. "The whole point of Carnival is to transform into someone else for a few days to do things you would never do in real life. And being covered in mud transforms you in just that way."
Renato Delavia, a 37-year-old lawyer, agreed the mud was liberating.
"My daughter is looking at me like I'm a completely different person, like some kind of monster," said Delavia, the whites of his eyes and his teeth popping in vibrant contrast with the rest of his slick ebony face. "It's kind of cool."
"He's weird," said his 5-year-old daughter, Valentina, eyeing her father warily.
With his crown of vines and skirt of swampy vines tucked into his Speedo, Stephen McCarthy looked even weirder.
"I'm ready to go pillaging," said McCarthy, a 25-year-old actuary who hails from Ireland. "I feel invincible, I feel like a Druid."
The "Bloco da Lama" was founded in 1986 by two local teens who became local Carnival sensations after they appeared in the city's historic downtown covered in mud following a crab hunting expedition in a nearby mangrove forest, said Rodrigues, who was hired by Paraty's City Hall to explain the history of the "bloco" to foreigners, who now come from as far afield as Italy and Germany.
Retired electric company worker Paulo Luz stood on the sand in an unsullied striped Speedo watching the mudslinging mayhem wistfully.
Asked if he planned on joining in the fun, Luz demurred.
"I think it looks really nice, but it's not in my character to take part in something like this," said the 67-year-old as a spray of mud drops rained down on his bald head. "I'm shy, so just being here and watching it and taking my chances with the mud balls is really quite something for me."