San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
FIA 2015

PHOTOS: Despite hiccups, International Arts Festival draws crowds

“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” So said aerospace engineer Edward Murphy in 1949. He was talking about a high-speed rocket sled, but he might as well have been talking about the 2015 International Arts Festival (FIA), which officially started Thursday night.

FIA has weathered every problem imaginable this week, from lacking essential permits to cancelling entire concerts. Rumors of disorganization and infighting among organizers have been rampant. Among those rumors: that FIA would be cancelled altogether.

The festival has lots of venues, but its epicenter is Alajuelita, where the inauguration was scheduled to take place Thursday evening. As the clock ticked toward 6 p.m., the crowd in Alajuelita’s central park was thin, except for soccer players and BMX bikers tooling around on the park’s blacktop. Workers frantically assembled pavilions and kiosks. Microphones were loudly checked. A pair of buskers wearing the Kölbi logo strutted around on stilts for the amusement of children.

Then the Youth Symphony Orchestra started to play. Scores of musicians were gathered on the main stage, quietly tuning their instruments, until the conductor raised his hands. The players weren’t yet amplified, so at first the music was soft, but the tune was unmistakeable. The crowd in the park started to gravitate toward the stage, and as they did so, they started to mouth the words to “Noble Patria, Tu Hermosa Bandera,” the Costa Rican National Anthem.

The din around the park seemed to quiet as the hum of voices and instruments harmonized. The melody grew louder until, in the middle of the third verse, the music abruptly dissipated. It was then apparent that the anthem was just a tune-up, and the crowd started to laugh.

“It’s a very nice thing for Alajuelita,” said a municipal worker named Antonio, who has lived in the district his entire life. “I think people are going to come. Probably on Saturday and Sunday, because they won’t have to work during the day.”

Once the sun set, the orchestra started to play in earnest. The crowd swelled in the park, and floodlights illuminated the stage and audience. Down the street, a parade of costumed dancers and masked buskers marched down the pavement, drawing hundreds of followers along the sidewalks. They hollered and cheered, jogging alongside the migrating performers.

If you hadn’t heard the drama, you would think everything had gone exactly as planned.

Workers rush to construct tents as the sun dwindled behind them.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

Technicians adjust a boom in the final hour before FIA is scheduled to commence.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

A busker impresses onlookers by striding around Alajuelita’s central park on stilts.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

Children gather on the park’s central fountain, bearing Kölbi masks on their faces.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

The crowd swells in front of St. Cristopher of Esquipulas Church.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

The Youth Symphony Orchestra opens the inauguration with classical compositions.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

Technicians from Spanish group La Tal adjust lights for their innovative clown show “Carilló.”

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

A TV reporter prepares for a live segment. As tension built throughout the day, reporters flocked to Alajuelita.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

A performer rides her light-covered bicycle down the streets of Alajuelita.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

A busker rides stilts above dancers during a parade in Alajuelita.

Robert Isenberg/The Tico Times

Contact Robert Isenberg at risenberg@ticotimes.net

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