Many of those dedicated to the roller-coaster of Carnival preparations describe it as Gomes did: an irresistible addiction. The tension of not knowing if it will all come together in time, followed by the great blowout that is the parade, makes them feel alive in a way nothing else does.
Those who love this can’t stop themselves from returning, year after year, in spite of the exhaustion, the cost and the time eaten up in the process, said Claudio Schneider, a hairdresser who stops working every August to dedicate himself exclusively to being an ‘‘aderecista’’ responsible for the decorations that top the floats. He doesn’t return to hair until after February.
‘‘I can’t stay away,’’ Schneider said. ‘‘I go to bed at 5 a.m., get up three hours later and keep working. There is no money that pays for that kind of dedication.’’
He also was taking part in the parade this year, one of the plumed figures in the group’s procession.
Gomes’ life also revolves around Portela. ‘‘This takes all the best I have to give: time, money, family, dedication,’’ he said,
He has been building floats since he was 13, and has developed a technique for carving in plastic foam. Over the years, however, he’s learned to do any job needed, he said as he explained with pride of ownership the step-by-step of putting a float together.
First, a metal structure is fabricated to provide the ‘‘bones’’ of the float, he said. Then come the basic wooden blocks, which need to be sturdy enough to hold dozens of costumed samba-dancing participants for hours. Then the elaborate decorations — fiberglass or plastic foam sculptures, which must be draped in cloth, painted or embroidered.
Unlike Schneider, Gomes seldom joins in the parade, preferring to watch from the stands so he doesn’t miss any of the show. He confessed that he cries when he sees his work debut on the parade ground.
‘‘Each year, it’s a child of mine that is born before the public eye,’’ he said. ‘‘The emotion is too big for words.’’