Despite facing some sobering realities, the Fiestas de Palmares will party on. The annual 12-day festival of food, drinking, crafts and carnival rides that descends on Palmares, a coffee town 45 minutes northwest of San José, has developed a reputation for trash-producing hedonism in recent years. But organizers have taken steps to ensure that this year’s bash is as family and environmentally friendly as ever.
Festivities kick off Wednesday, and once again big-name concerts are expected to be the highlight. Mexican singer Ana Bárbara headlines the rancher festival the evening of Jan. 16, while Mexican artist Pee Wee performs the following day at noon. The Puerto Rican reggaeton group Calle 13 closes out the fiestas with a performance on Jan. 25. Other acts on the ticket include Mexican group Kinky, rock/ska/reggae act Los Pericos, DJ group Deep Dish, Argentinean act Miranda! and DJ Roger Sanchez.
The fiestas’ more traditional fare, including bullfighting, fireworks and a carnival will return, as well the tope, in which horse riders from across the country parade through the streets of Palmares. Competitions in mountain biking, horseback riding and running will also be featured.
In light of Costa Rica’s new traffic law, which cracks down on drunken driving, organizers have de-emphasized alcohol at the fiestas. A 2-for-1 beer promotion has been canceled, and individuals who appear drunk will be denied entrance to the fairgrounds.
In addition, Traffic Police will set up checkpoints to impede drunk drivers and employ undercover officers on buses to ensure passenger safety.
This year’s fiestas also promise to be greener. Environmental concerns have dogged the festivities for years, and the fiestas were nearly axed two yeas ago by Palmares’ mayor before receiving a lastminute green light from environmental officials (TT, Jan. 12, 2007). Last year, the Coca-Cola Co. chipped in to collect 2.5 tons of waste plastic after the fiestas (TT Feb. 1, 2008). Still, the fiestas generated some 17 tons of waste, which was deposited in a landfill.
This year, organizers plan to integrate biodegradable materials into the fiestas to limit the environmental damages from the heaps of rubbish produced every year. Organizers expect about 750,000 people to attend the fiestas, which they hope will infuse ¢300 million (about $556,000) into the local economy, Palmares Civic Association President William Vásquez told the daily al Día.
For information in Spanish and a complete program of activities, go to www.fiestaspalmares.com.