San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Booze, bikers, bulls take over Palmares

It’s that time of year again when Palmares, a coffee town northwest of San José, transforms into a colossal, rollicking fiesta. Over the Fiestas Palmares’ 12 days of miscellaneous fetes, performances and sporting events, the amount of beer consumed invites comparisons to Oktoberfest.

Some celebrations commence Wednesday, with many of the usual highlights in store: Tico-style bullfights (nonlethal to the bull), concerts, street food and parades on horseback known as topes. But Costa Rica’s grandest and earliest party of the year also features a new attraction in 2012 – motorcycles.

None other than Harley-Davidson Motor Company is sponsoring the aptly named “Harley Fest” set for Friday. According to Bertha Silva, spokeswoman for the organizing Palmares Civic Association, the addition of motorcycles this year will feed into a long-standing interest of festival attendants.

“Every year at Palmares, there are more motorcycles,” Silva said.

That’s probably no surprise to Harley-Davidson. In October, the company opened a Latin American regional headquarters in Miami – its first outside the Harley-Davidson world headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The goal, according to a press release, is “to capitalize on growing demand in Latin America.”

To manage all those motorcycles and all that beer, the Palmares association is employing 1,000 security officers over the course of the festival. Some of the officers are from the National Police while others are from private companies. Additionally, the usual highway cops will be strategically placed along the Inter-American Highway between Palmares and San José to intercept drunken drivers.

Organizers expect a total turnout of about 1 million people.

Other events of note at this year’s fiestas are the Festival Infantil for kids on Jan. 17 and Carnival Kölbi on Jan. 20. Musical standouts include Mexico’s ranchero and mariachi sensation Pepe Aguilar and Colombia’s Fanny Lu, who will take the stage Jan. 14 during Festival Ranchero, and Puerto Rican reggaeton sensations Don Omar and Plan B, who will kick off the Full Móvil international concert series on Jan. 15.

For more information and a schedule of events, visit

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