View a photo slideshow of the Fourth of July party here.
A steady torrent of rain stopped just in time for a parade of U.S. veterans, classic muscle cars, and an honorary U.S. marine guard to make its way down Avenida Escazú on Monday evening for Costa Rica’s annual U.S. Independence Day celebration.
This year’s festivities were different for many reasons. It was the first time non-U.S. citizens could attend, and it was the first year the event was held at Avenida Escazú, the upscale shopping development in Escazú, just off the freeway southwest of San José. In addition, the parade started in the early evening, while in years past it started in the morning.
At the onset of the parade, the change of venue and time drew mixed responses from parade participants.
“I think the event was better last year,” said Holly Salas, a U.S. citizen and parade participant. Salas said she wasn’t fond of the constant rain and missed having the event out in the open air where kids had more room to run around and play. However, she said she was happy that organizers decided to let Ticos as well as U.S. citizens attend this year.
“In the beginning this event used to be very ‘gringoized,’” she said. “I’m happy to see a lot of Ticos out here today.”
Indeed, the shopping center, avenue, and tents set up for the event were packed full of both Ticos and U.S. citizens. Many of the Ticos were either married to or the children of U.S. citizens. Some young Ticas posed for a picture with the honorary U.S. Marine guard.
Antonio Cartagena, a U.S. retiree who spends his time between Florida and Costa Rica, said last year’s party felt more like a traditional U.S. picnic. In addition, he said he enjoyed the flat rate parade participants paid for the event.
“Last year you paid a flat price and then you got all the hot dogs and beer you wanted,” he said.
The change in venue was due to the American Colony Committee’s original decision to take a year off from hosting the annual party for the first time in 50 years due to the high cost of the event at the Cervecería Costa Rica national brewery grounds in Alajuela. However, representatives from Avenida Escazú contacted the ACC about hosting at their facility.
“The folks at Avenida Escazú approached the ACC when they heard we wouldn’t be holding our traditional event at the Cervecería,” Lynda Solar told The Tico Times. “They wanted to do a Fourth of July event including fireworks, and they wanted to involve the ACC (TT, June 3, 2011).
By the time the sun went down, the rain finally dried up and the mood of the festivities took a drastic upward turn. A rock band played covers while participants ventured out from under tents into the clear Costa Rican night.
Peter Gilman, founder of Craft Brewing Company, handed out glass after glass of his brewery’s dark Segua Red Ale and rich Libertas Golden Ale.
The entertainment featured a parade led by Uncle Sam, a clown, a magician, playgrounds, and performances by the University of Costa Rica (UCR) band and the Western Kentucky University Wind Ensemble.
“We came down here to bring instruments to underprivileged kids,” said Gary Schallert, director of the Western Kentucky Wind Ensemble. “We heard about the event and asked if we could come and crash the party.”
The UCR and Western Kentucky band spent the night alternating songs in a show of camaraderie echoed in a speech given by U.S. ambassador Anne Slaughter Andrew.
Andrew highlighted the high points of the long relationship between the U.S. and Costa Rica. She said the U.S is Costa Rica’s largest trading partner and receives more aid from the United States for environmental protection and economic development than any other country. In addition, she pointed out that Costa Rica recently received a $50 million environmental conservation grant from the United States. Furthermore, she said the United States and Costa Rica will soon be working side by side on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In closing, Andrew read a speech written by U.S. president Barack Obama for the occasion. Obama’s speech stressed mutual respect between the United States and its allies as a cornerstone of his foreign policy.
After the speeches and raising of the flag by the marine guard, event participants stuck around to watch a fireworks display.
The fireworks burst low overhead to the applause and raucous cheering of the assembled Tico and U.S audience. After the fireworks, the general consensus from parade participants was the night was well worth the visit.