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When Costa Ricans are done celebrating the Christmas and New Year holidays, they have yet another party to look forward to: the Palmares fiestas, one of Costa Rica’s most anticipated traditional celebrations.
Palmares, a small town between Alajuela and San Ramon, is known for hosting the best fiestas and horse parade in the country. During the second half of January, Palmares becomes the focal point for many locals.
Each year, the Palmares fiestas begin the second week of January and continue through the month with a series of events. These include concerts, fireworks, sports activities, tents with alcohol and food, Costa Rican-style bullfighting and a traditional horse parade.
The lighting of the fair grounds, a parade of lanterns, and the start of the Palmarin Soccer Cup at the stadium officially begin the fiestas. The masses arrive at the start of the tope, a horse parade through the streets of Palmares, which starts around noon. At the horse parade, participants ride their best horses through the streets, showing off their beautiful steeds with fancy steps.
Spectators prepared for the hot midday sun will be wearing sunglasses, cowboy hats and sun block, as they line up along the route to see the show. It is the place to be seen by others as they chat with friends, move to the music, and drink cool beverages (mostly beer) to stay refreshed in the heat.
After the parade, the party continues at the various tents – improvised bars under huge awnings constructed just for this January event. These tent bars, sponsored by local beer and alcohol companies, are open until dawn for the entire two weeks. Costa Ricans will travel from all over Costa Rica to spend a night at the tents drinking, dancing and watching all the beautiful people having a good time.
During the two weeks of the Palmares fiestas, the tradition of Toros a la Tica, the Costa Rican-style of bullfighting, can be enjoyed at the stadium. The event is attended by hundreds of improvised bullfighters who get in the ring to taunt the bull and test their fate. Unlike traditional bullfighting, anyone with enough courage can participate in the event by getting in the ring with the bull. The bull is not killed, as this type of bullfighting is more of a comical event than a duel. A few Mexican bullfighters are also brought in to perform traditional Spanish-style bullfights.
The outdoor concerts at Palmares are always a local favorite. Thousands will be delighted by Reggaeton superstars and famous Latin alternative rock bands. It is now a tradition that big international acts are booked on both Sundays of the fiestas. In Costa Rica there are fiestas once a year in every town, but when it comes to the best, the town of Palmares is king. We hope to see you there.