San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Star-Spangled holiday fest a hit

Families gorged on hot dogs slathered in mustard, ketchup and relish. A veteran sloshed a stein of beer. Others patriots, dressed in their best red, white and blue waited in line for carnival rides or participated in picnic games.  

The Cervecería Costa Rica fairgrounds, north of San José, were transformed Wednesday morning into the site of the annual U.S. Independence Day celebration. A couple thousand U.S. expats showed up for the annual bash in their home away from homeland. 

The Fourth of July celebration has thrived for decades in Costa Rica. At the picnic, no fireworks flash in the sky, and nobody would confuse the jets flying overhead from Juan Santamaría International Airport with Blue Angels. But certain moments resonate with U.S. residents living abroad. 

When it came time to sing the national anthem, as U.S. military members raised the flag, attendees moved their right hands to their hearts and mouthed the words that many had committed to memory long ago. “O say can you see…”  

“It was a little touching. I heard the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star-Spangled Banner, and I felt a lot of nostalgia,” said Clark Leips, 76. “It really got to me.”

Throughout the event, The Tico Times spoke with several partakers about what the U.S. Independence Day fiesta means to them.

Morgan Pleasant

Originally from: Washington, D.C.

After her two years in the Peace Corps, Pleasant is staying on for a third working as a coordinator. She said she found her way to the Fourth of July celebration to get together with other Peace Corps volunteers from across the country. “Today didn’t feel like the Fourth of July until we came out here with all these other people from the States,” she said. “It’s a great taste of home.”

Lani Bardaje

Originally from: Washington, D.C.

The Fourth of July celebration was Bardaje’s first stop in Costa Rica. She had just flown in to see her friend Morgan Pleasant, a Peace Corps volunteer. It was her first time celebrating the holiday abroad, yet from her of travel experiences, Bardaje said she’s not surprised to see lots of U.S. expats convening to celebrate their holiday. “This is a great stop, but I’m ready to see the real Costa Rica,” she said.

Carolina Suárez

Originally from: Heredia

Suárez found herself at the Cervecería Costa Rica on Wednesday by tagging along with coworkers from the Peace Corp headquarters in San José, where she is a program manager. She said she was curious about how U.S. expats celebrated the Fourth of July. “Costa Ricans celebrate their independence day in their own communities, and not with a one big party,” she said. Not all the folks from the United States can do that here so it’s nice that everyone can gather here to party, she said.

William Kincy

Originally from: Raleigh, North Carolina

Kincy is visiting his wife’s family in Costa Rica, and the whole crew came out to see what the picnic was like. “I like being able to observe my country’s independence even if I’m not at home,” he said. His wife, Roxana, said it was nice that her husband and daughter, Malia, could partake in the experience.

Clark Leips

Originally from: St. Petersburg, Florida

Leips lived in Quepos, on the central Pacific Coast, for six years until finally making the move to Grecia, west of the capital, where he resides now. Leips made his first trip to the Independence Day picnic, and said it was a special time. “I always thought it was too far to feel it was worth the trip,” he said. “So I think it’s absolutely super to be able to come to something like this.”

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