San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

San José Summer Festival Draws a Crowd

Under the spreading limbs of old, indigenous trees, the artisans set up their tables and spread out their wares: earrings, preserves, baskets, linen shirts, the occasional ceramic piggy bank.

Nearby, stilt walkers tottered about while food stands sold churros and a band tuned up. A shaved-ice vendor worked nonstop, doling out snow cones to both children and the Transit Police.

Another day in paradise, sure. But surprisingly, this one took place in San José.

It was the city’s fifth annual summer festival, known as Transitarte, which roughly translates as “move yourself.” And people did, about 30,000 of them circulating among the different booths and attractions in the four main parks that dominate the center of the city and surround the Casa Amarilla.

“I think every year, people are more aware of this activity,” said Liliam Quesada, head of the city’s Cultural Services Department.

The festival, which took place last Thursday through Sunday, was divided among Morazán, España and Jardín de Paz parks.

Though the theme this year was “Art in the Street,” there was plenty else going on.

On a side street just south of the National Insurance Institute (INS) building, trickedout cars sat open on display, blasting their stereos and occasionally shooting a jet of flame out of a tailpipe or two.

At another spot, children whizzed overhead on the so-called “urban canopy tour,” a zipline that stretched from a platform in Parque Jardín de Paz to an empty parking lot where all sorts of sports activities were going on.

Young boxers from the Pacific-slope town of Esparza challenged the San José champions in an amateur boxing ring, and later on a team of cheerleaders showed their stuff.

Bands included everything from the hippy, such as trova band Duo Adobes, to the hip – soul singer Sasha Campbell. Theater events included a dramatic rendition of “The Little Prince,” acted out by two puppeteers in black suits who switched masks during the show to impersonate different characters.

Nearby, a few artists were drawing caricatures while others were giving mini classes on how to draw using oil crayons and colored pencils.

Quesada called the weekend an “extraordinary success.” The whole thing was pulled together by only five employees working with the municipality. Quesada said it’s especially remarkable that the city was able to put on such a large and popular event without the sponsorship of any beer or liquor brands, which is typical for festivals throughout Costa Rica.

“Really, it was a great experience,” she said. Altogether, 60 artistic groups participated in the event, with more than 1,000 people getting together to make it happen.

The first of the San José summer festivals took place five years ago and coincided with Mayor Johnny Araya’s plan to repopulate the city. Those plans have proceeded slowly, but are seeing some light with new residential towers going up around La Sabana Park, a cleaned up Central Market and new “intelligent” stoplights that are supposed to ease traffic woes.

Quesada said this year’s summer festival was the biggest yet, and that next year will be even bigger.


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