Time for fiesta.
A combination of a block party, state fair, rodeo and outdoor Latin Deejayed dance, that about describes the local fiestas.
Each and every town has fiesta at least once a year. It is the local culture. When the bull ring starts being erected from scratch with lumber that looks as if it was found on the side of the road, you know it is coming. It takes about a week to erect it, but it is always finished on time. Once the ring is up, the party starts, and they know how to party.
The music is ear bleeding loud. The food is heart clogging good. The vendors are in your face with their trinkets. The rides, well the rides are the rejects, the ones deemed unsafe in the states, and they are fired up and rolling. But the highlight is the bull ring. Every night there is an event in the bull ring, and every night it is a spectacle.
The sounds, the smells, the scenery, they all scream party. They beg you to dance, call for you to eat and to eat badly, and summon you to cheer on the bulls. There is the obligatory beer tent, or two, or three, just in case any false courage is needed. And there always at least three different DJ’s blasting out latin, hip swinging, head bobbing dance music, with competing throbbing beats, throughout the night.
As soon as the rides opened, the kids were ready to roll. At the Villa Real festival there were four larger rides, including a mini coaster, bumper cars, a spinning puking twisting thing, and an air spinner. The great thing is there are no lines, because on one waits in line, you just push forward, walk on, get on, and ride if you dare. The rides look like they are about two levels of safety below the typical backyard fair in the states. There are no safety fences, no chains or gates’; in fact to get into the bumper cars you have to literally run through the whirling bumper cars to get to your car and join in the fun. It adds a slight level of intensity. You can also high-five your friends on the air rides as they fly by you at mach 7, or let your little kids go ahead and stand during the kiddy airplane ride, or coaster ride, as we witnessed. So even though the ride itself may not be that intense, the freedom within adds unspeakable levels of intensity.
The food, it is fried, it is local, it smells good and it tastes good. There is lots of rice, lots of meat on sticks and a local favorite, the double fried chicken. Yep, the fried chicken sits under a heat lamp until you order. Then, to make sure it is hot and fresh for you, they fry it again. So you get a built-in drink with your chicken. We stuck to some churros and donuts with a touch of caramello.
But the highlight is the rickety wooden ring of which the festival surrounds. Therein lies the loudest music, therein is the loudest announcer, and there is where the crowd gathers. Some unwilling to shell out 2000 colones for a wooden bleacher seat, bring their own chairs and set up station right outside the ring, peering through the wooden planks. Others climb on top of the fence posts, and some set up camp under the bleachers. Us tourists, the non-locals, well we shell out the money so we can sit in comfort and with a view. Exactly what were we viewing?
A bull ring littered with drunk college spring breakers, drunk young locals and a couple of skilled vaqueros on their horses, armed with rope and lasso. There were about 25 young brave men in the ring ready to run from, at, and with the bulls. The bulls were big, the bulls were mean, and the bulls were fast. The worked quickly to get the young rider off their back so they could set their horns on the young sunburned drunks in their flip-flops. And just as I turned to tell my wife how I was rooting for the bull amongst the bravado appearing in the ring, two familiar faces appeared, Jeremy and Braden. So now there were 25 drunks and Jeremy and Braden. They too wanted to feel the horns of the bull up close. Perhaps even more intense, the wrath of mom when she found out they were in the ring.
But alas, the boys maintaining a full state of soberness stayed close to the fence, leaping up in a single bound at the inclination of an angry bull approaching. They moved swiftly and unlike several Ticos, never had to dive for cover. There were several falls, lots of fence jumping and even some dives as the bulls charged, parried and spun throughout the dirt covered rung. The false bravado was amazing, the close calls followed by high fives, hugs and another beer. As far as live entertainment goes, and for the price, it is pretty hard to beat.
It was a good night, and once it was over it was to comprehend why the fiestas were the most anticipated event of the year. They had a touch of Americana, the cheap trinkets, candied apples, cotton candy and mechanical rides. They had culture with the food and the historical bull ring, as this country was founded and settled by cowboys, or vaqueros. But most of all they have a place to get together, even if just for a weekend. A reason to come out of their small home as a family and gather with friends, enjoy their culture, eat, dance, drink, and just forget about the worries of the day for a couple of nights. Forget about the heat and the hard life, and just enjoy. But most of all they gather praying together that at least one of those drunk college tourist’s back ends meets the front end of a bull. For then they will have a story to share for all time.
A little video shot with my iphone so you can soak up some of the action and sounds.