If a world record exists for the most remote festival on the planet, then Parintins should win hands down. This cow town of sorts sits on an island in the Amazon River, some 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) inland from the Atlantic. Its claim to fame: the spectacular Boi Bumba festival, held over three days in June. The town’s 60,000 inhabitants spend the year preparing for the festival, building fantastic floats that depict giant pink porpoises, fierce jaguars and the like. Two rival camps, the red-colored Garantido and the blue-colored Caprichoso, compete in song and dance performances staged in a massive stadium glowing like a UFO that landed in the Amazon jungle.
The festival is based on a long-told folk tale with indigenous, African and European elements: A cowboy kills a prized bull (boi in Portuguese) for his pregnant wife, who craves ox tongue; facing death by the landowner, he is ultimately saved when a shaman brings the bull back to life. As tens of thousands of spectators cheer wildly, "Indian" maidens sing while perched high on the floats, and huge dance troupes move to the rhythms of hundreds of samba drummers. The winning team grabs bragging rights for the year. During the rest of the year, visitors are treated to samples of the big shows to come in June.