LA FORTUNA, Alajuela — The Imagination Bus, an old and dark cyan former school bus, is parked alongside the outside walls of La Fortuna’s former bull fighting ring.
Inside the bus, the rows of seats have been removed, and the floorboards have been replaced with new light wood paneling. Along the right-side wall is an almost finished shelving structure, and opposite it sit a few child-sized, sea green beanbag chairs.
Large, decorative lightbulbs hang from the ceiling, and construction tools lay on the floor in the back. A series of photographs on top of the shelving structure, which soon will be home to hundreds of books, documents the progress that this future library on wheels has made since renovations began on it last year.
But there is still plenty of work to be done.
The shelving unit still needs its finishing touches and more books need to be acquired, be it through donations or purchases. An area for puppet shows is planned, and an air conditioning system with fans has to be installed.
With a goal of someday going to neighborhoods and villages in the northern parts of Costa Rica, where libraries might not be as easily accessible or even exist, the Imagination Bus will visit to offer children an opportunity to learn and read.
Her own childhood reading opportunities and obsession are what inspired Cynthia Crummer to pursue the creation of this mobile library. Now, with its second year of fundraising having occurred this past weekend at the Huellas Gastronomic and Cultural Festival, the Imagination Bus is becoming less of an imagination and more of a reality.
“That love of books that I had impacted me so much as a child,” said Crummer, who is the founder and CEO of the Huellas Festival. “I wanted to give back to these kids.”
And she’s accomplishing exactly that with the Huellas festival, which raises money each year for charitable causes. Last year, after a three-year hiatus, the festival entered its eighth iteration, and it was decided the Imagination Bus would become its future benefactor.
Support for the Imagination Bus has grown ever since, with officials at the federal level and from the Ministry of Culture now pledging approval for the bus, according to Crummer.
“They get it, to see the value of the library,” Crummer said. “It shows you the realness of this country with the people who are in this administration right now. It motivates me to keep doing things.”
The people of La Fortuna seem to agree on the importance of fulfilling such a need.
This year, Crummer estimated at least 3,000 people from across the country were in attendance during the two-day event, and she hoped to raise at least $10,000 for the bus.
During the festival, businesses from the city offered their products or services, with their proceeds going toward the funding of the Imagination Bus. Crummer said at least 20 different food stands registered for the festival, and that did not include the many other types of businesses present on the fairgrounds, which included resort and spa companies to pottery and jewelry makers.
“It’s very important for us to give something to the community as well,” said Jenifer Hernández, the director of events and groups at The Springs Resort and Spa. “For us, it’s the Imagination Bus.”
In fact, it was Lee Banks, the owner of The Springs Resort and Spa, who donated the bus last year during the festival. Hernández said Banks was looking to replace it with a newer one and thought donating it to such a cause only made sense.
For other businesses, the festival allows for more exposure with the La Fortuna public while also giving to a notable charity.
“I get known by the hotels,” said Virya Cranfield, who has owned and operated her homemade pottery business, Arte de Alfarería, for the past 20 years. “I just had an order placed for 12 plates. It’s really great.”
It is this exposure, Cranfield said, that helps her and other business-owners at the festival reach out to people they might not be able to otherwise.
However, food and other merchants were not the only ways that guests could contribute funding for the bus.
In a nearby field, children could pay to ride on a small Ferris wheel or play in blowup bounce houses. A social hall hosted game after game of bingo.
Free entertainment was also available as a massive stage occupied the center of the fairgrounds, where live music was performed by groups from all over Costa Rica who played their biggest hits.
Crummer is optimistic that the Imagination Bus will make its first trip within the next two months. Until then, the remaining projects for the bus will be completed thanks to the fundraising and hard work that so many have put into the initiative.
“It takes a community to do things, not just one person,” Crummer said. “The devotion of everybody working here this year, from the people to the workers, it’s pretty shocking. Pretty humbling.”