San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ticos Think Big, Bigger, Biggest

Costa Rica is a small country that thinks big. So far, we’ve seen the biggest coffee basket in the world in Barva de Heredia, a mountain town north of San José. The world’s biggest gallo pinto, that quintessentially Tico dish of rice and beans, in San José. The biggest cheese in  Costa Rica (but not the biggest in the world– coming from Wisconsin, I’ve seen lots of big cheeses) in Zarcero, a mountain town in north-central Costa Rica. The longest sub sandwich in the world in San José. And the biggest oxcart in the world in the craft town of Sarchí, west of the capital.

Then, within a few weeks’ time, there were four more supersize events. In April, the western San José suburb of Escazú produced the biggest marimba band, with 48 marimba players playing the same song at the same time in an outdoor concert. Barva de Heredia held a citywide baby shower, or té de canastilla. In Valverde Vega, near the airport northwest of San José, 40 chefs cooked up the biggest tomato soup in the world.

And at Los Trapiches, a recreational park in Santa Gertrudis de Grecia, northwest of the capital, they produced the biggest tapa dulce, or brown sugar loaf, in the world.

The marimba concert was part of a city festival in Escazú. It was nice, but it didn’t make the Guinness Book of World Records because the judges never showed.

The baby shower in Barva brought out most of the town with gifts and best wishes for Elizabeth Camacho and husband Mauricio Rojas, a young couple expecting quintuplets. Though baby showers are usually the province of women, this time men, too, joined in the silly shower games of dressing up in bib, bonnet and diaper and competing to see who could finish a bottle of milk fastest.

The same Sunday was the annual tomato war in San Juan de Sarchí, in the Alajuela province. As part of a festival dedicated to the area’s leading crop, folks take sides and pitch tomatoes at each other. They even attacked the press, and the whole country saw red when one missile hit the lens of a TV camera. For an after-battle snack, 40 chefs cooked up 400 kilos of tomatoes, 75 kilos of carrots and 50 kilos of yuca (cassava) to provide enough tomato soup for 2,000 appetites and raise money to help indigenous communities in the Southern Zone.

The same week in Palmares, the next town to the west, furniture factories turned out a children’s sofa long enough for 160 kids to sit on at the same time as a promotion for a furniture fair.

And in May at Los Trapiches recreational center in Grecia, they celebrated the biggest tapa dulce in the world. Made at the sugar mill that was imported from Scotland in 1868 and that still runs on water power from the Río Prendas, the brown sugar loaf stood two meters high, had a diameter of a 1.25 meters and weighed 1,500 kilos.

It took four days and 24 tons of sugar cane to make the supersize sugar loaf. The liquid sugar was poured into huge molds lined with strips of banana bark to keep it from sticking. The guys from Guinness are still in the judging process to determine if it’s a record breaker. Before a crowd of 1,500 people, the huge sweet cake was sold off in pieces, with proceeds going to rebuild the school in Cinco Esquinas de Carrizal, which was damaged by the Jan. 8 earthquake that struck northwest of San José.

Crazy or not? Supersize events promote products, vie for the Guinness Book of World Records, are popular with the public and, in many cases, help our neighbors. But what on Earth will they think of next?


Comments are closed.