San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Picnic marks 55 years of family traditions

See our July 4 Picnic Program in digital flipbook format here! 

The Fourth of July is upon us – and so is the American Colony Committee’s traditional Fourth of July Picnic, whose 55th edition will take place on Saturday at the Cervecería in Alajuela. All U.S. citizens are invited to attend and to bring along one Costa Rican guest for a truly binational celebration. To get into the spirit of the big day, The Tico Times spoke to Cait Bell, 45, a Committee member whose family has been involved the picnic since its inception.

TT: What do the Committee and picnic tradition mean for your family?

CB: For my family, it is a lifetime tradition. These are my roots. My father is one the pioneers – he’s always supported it – and I’ve participated in the Committee for 20 or 25 years. Since my children were born I’ve stayed at the edge, but I still taking part in it. I’ve spent some Fourth of July celebrations outside of Costa Rica and even in the United States, but it has never been celebrated as it is here in Costa Rica.

Tell us about something you remember from old picnics.

What I remember about the old picnics, those held at the old U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, were the oxcart rides. I loved to eat cotton candy and popcorn and walk around waving little flags. The picnic was a highlight of [Costa Rica’s mid-year school vacations], and it is for my children, too. They are always looking forward to it.

Is there something you miss from old picnics related to the actual picnics?

The traditional oxcarts are something we no longer do. We also used to have pie-eating contests. I remember the delicious blueberry pies. I never participated in the contest itself, but I really enjoyed watching it.

On the flip side, what are some advantages of today’s picnics compared to the older ones? 

Now the picnic takes place on the grounds of the Cervecería de Costa Rica, so we have much more space. We have a petting zoo, for example. My son loves to play volleyball and water balloon games, among others; for adults there is the beer garden, and car exhibitions. But the most significant activity, for all participants, is the flag raising by the U.S. Marines. We have so much fun and enjoy all the activities but without this one, the event wouldn’t be the same. Food-wise, nowadays there is TCBY! We didn’t have that back in the day. There are many companies that donate the food, such as bagels, coffee, ice cream, hot dogs, cotton candy, and popcorn.

We are always trying to include more and more activities, even though it is not always possible because of the budget. The Committee exists because of donations; people often think  it is financed by the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. government, which is not true. So we have to look for donations or sponsorships, which is quite hard. The picnic is really important because it is the only event where most of the U.S. citizens here in Costa Rica get together. We would love to keep up this tradition forever, but it will depend on the support we can get.

See also: A look back at a different world – Remembering the Fourth of July Picnic, 1965

The 55th Annual American Colony Committee Fourth of July Picnic takes place on Saturday July 4 at the grounds of Cervecería de Costa Rica in Alajuela, from 9 am to 1 pm. For more information, visit the American Colony Committe’s website or consult our 2015 Picnic Program.

Contact Amanda Zúñiga at

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Ken Morris

Why do the US Marines have to be involved?

I am, or at least was, a patriotic American–and I’m not even a pacifist. I believe there are times when a military is necessary, even times when the US military is a force for good. I’m glad those soldiers serve, since they actually serve for me too.

But I don’t understand or agree with the militaristic sentiment that has swept the US.

Independence Day commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a pretty noble document, and one I’m proud is part of my heritage. And yes, after the Declaration was signed, a war for independence ensued. But that war was largely fought on the US side by volunteers, not a professional army, and after the Americans won and the Founders wrote a Constitution, they explicitly included in the Constitution a prohibition against the US ever having a standing army. Read the Constititution, the prohibition is still there. It’s just ignored.

And now we have uniformed Marines as the ceremonial centerpiece of a 4th of July picnic in Costa Rica.

Sorry, I won’t be attending. Mind, if the Marines were there in civilian clothes eating hot dogs and playing games with everyone else, sure, I would gladly attend. It’s my country too, damn it. But the equating of US patriotism with militarism is not my country, nor the country of the Founders.

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