A GIANT astronaut waved to revellers as samba playing aliens danced down Cowley Road.

Carnival fever hit East Oxford hard today as cloudy skies gave way to sunshine and soaring temperatures.

AS IT HAPPENED: See our live blog from the carnival

Around 50,000 people are estimated to have enjoyed the free event, which included hundreds of performers, dozens of food stalls, plus the main attraction – the colourful costumed parade.

Oxford Mail:

This year's theme was 'Space is the Place', inspired by the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, as well as Oxford’s contribution to science and it produced plenty of eye-catching costumes and giant structures.

Among the intergalactic line up was an astronaut created by East Oxford Primary School, and a massive telescope looking at planets made by Oxford Spires Academy.

ALSO READ: Crazy creations and incredible costumes at annual village carnival

Cowley Mini Plant apprentices also wowed the crowds with their rocket car, complete with a 'brain' sticking out of the roof and red smoke.

Heading the procession was Oxford's Sol Samba, with a pair of dancers dressed as rockets accompanied by a gaggle of green aliens on drums.

Oxford Mail:

Katherine Fletcher, co-leader of the group, said: "It's a tremendous honour leading the carnival procession and it's the highlight of our year, we always have our biggest band for carnival day."

She added: "We love the space theme, it was something concrete we could really get into, as well as being a great nod to the city's history of scientific achievements."

Pictures: Musical legends rock out to celebrate Cornbury's 'best ever line-up'

After the parade the party continued throughout the afternoon, with different zones catering to all tastes and ages.

Music lovers could hear dance blend into hip hop, then reggae into soulful acoustic as they strolled down the main road, with stages along the thoroughfare and its side streets.

Oxford Mail:

The Union Street car park behind Tesco, meanwhile, was transformed into a disco zone thanks to the Arcadia Bug fresh from its appearance at Glastonbury.

A DJ stage on wheels, the curious vehicle was driven up Cowley Road before it spread its wings so Pretty Young Things could play an infectious mix of funk, soul and disco from the unique stand.

Family-friendly fun could be found on the 'village green', with fairground rides and games.

The Dingley Dell at the bottom of Manzil Way also had a grassy picnic area, acoustic music, craft workshops, recycling activities and The Story Museum’s Little Shop of Stories.

Oxford Mail:

Will Brossler and Jo Willett, from New Hinksey, who enjoyed the carnival with their children Sophia, Harry, Louis and Immy, who ranged from aged seven to five, said it was this atmosphere that set Cowley Road Carnival apart.

Mr Brossler said: "There's always a good vibe and it never feels too edgy, there's something for everyone."

ALSO READ: Families venture down the rabbit hole for Alice's Day

Laura Hodgson on Twitter described the carnival as: "A glorious escape from the commerciality of other events and much more truly inclusive."

Along with music and dance, there was also a host of international food to tempt adventurous diners, from Middle Eastern street food from new Cowley Road restaurant Za'atar Bake to East Oxford legend and Jamaican native Ma Smith with her own offering.

Oxford Mail:

Cuisines from around the world were available, with Manzil Way hosting street food stalls, as well as Cowley Road’s collection of independent restaurants feeding the hungry crowds along the main street.

In an effort to get more people donating to the carnival, which is free but costs £130,000 a year to run, for the first time contactless payment was offered on the day.

Volunteer Ian Barry said it had proved popular with revellers, saying: "It's another way for people to contribute to the carnival which is great.

Oxford Mail:

"People are generous if you ask them because I think they appreciate what has been put on."

Micaela Tuckwell, executive director of Cowley Road Works, which organises the event, said: “A truly Cosmic Carnival! We are completely over the moon! The procession was out of this world.

"The groups embraced our theme ‘Space is the Place’.

"We had planets, spacemen, little green men – and women – an Earth goddess and not forgetting the sun which shone brilliantly for us. 

She added: "The atmosphere has been absolutely fantastic with such a good vibe. Everywhere I looked people were having a wonderful time.

"Its been a privilege to have been part of this amazing event.” 

To donate to the carnival visit cowleyroadcarnival.co.uk.