July 4th was sunny and bright – perfect for a giant, U.S.-style picnic. Hundreds of people converged on the Cervecería Nacional on the outskirts of San José to attend the 54th annual Fourth of July Picnic, a Costa Rican tradition since 1961. The crowd was a mix of U.S. citizens and Tico guests, who meandered from Pepsi kiosk to yogurt stall to the Nathan’s Famous hot dog tent, eating and chatting and savoring the perfect weather.
Established by the American Colony Committee, the picnic is an opportunity for U.S. expats to socialize and celebrate U.S. independence. The picnic is also a venue for local businesses and organizations, from Prisma Cosmetic Dentistry to the American Legion.
The activities could have been plucked from a Norman Rockwell painting: There were balloon tosses, gunny sack races, a hot dog eating contest and a petting zoo. A cheerleading squad flipped acrobats in the air while square dancers do-si-doed nearby. Cover bands played classic rock on the main stage. The Imperial beer flowed liberally.
All activity stopped so that the organizers could say a few words, including U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Gonzalo Gallegos. “It’s fun being American,” said Gallegos, who added that his family is originally from Mexico. “That’s a part of being American that I enjoy the most. We like to have fun.”
In addition to old-fashioned fun, attendants sang along to the Costa Rican and U.S. national anthems, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and watched three U.S. Marines raise the flag. The ceremony ended with the arrival of “Uncle Sam,” who waved from the main stage, leapt into the crowd, and was swarmed with amateur photographers.
Here are some snapshots from Independence Day morning.