Venice's Carnival normally runs for 11 days. In 2011, however, the organizers added a preview weekend on February 19 and 20, possibly because Carnevale is so late this year (February 26-March 8).
Today (Sunday, February 20), locals celebrated a "Venetian Festival on the Water" as an alternative to the more tourist-oriented Carnival events in the Piazzo San Marco.
In laate morning, a boat parade headed down the Grand Canal, turned right into the Cannaregio Canal, and finished up at the Ponte dei Tre Archi.
There, at noon, the mayor and other local officials gave their official blessing to the second annual Svolo della Pantegana or "Flight of the Rat," which is a good-natured parody of the annual "Flight of the Angel" in the Piazza San Marco (an event where a celebrity in an elaborate costume descends into the square on a cable while crowds of tourists, costumed bigwigs, and TV crews look on).
After landing in the canal, the giant rat replica floated amid the boats while onlookers headed for stands along the canal that were serving free food and wine supplied by local restaurants. The atmosphere was good-natured and unpretentious, and the crowd--though large--wasn't nearly so overwhelming as the mob that will clog the streets around the Piazza San Marco next Sunday.
Below are two videos that Cheryl took today: one of the boat parade, and the other showing the "Flight of the Rat" immediately afterward.