Our arrival to Boquete, Panama, was not the best timing. We certainly hadn't planned it this way but our first day in Boquete (Jan 9th) coincided with the first day of the biggest festival of the year: The Flower and Coffee Festival. It also happened to be a national holiday (there is a national holiday about every other week...). That meant the town itself would be very crowded [I researched and found this year's attendance was over 145,000 - over the 10 day event]. It also meant most non-tourist-related businesses would be closed.
Fortunately, the condo we rented is well outside of town, so we weren't affected by the noise and crowds. We found out is was OK to go into town in the morning and early afternoon, but in the evening it was crazy.
Our friends asked us if we wanted to go to the Festival with them on Sunday afternoon - after church and a nice brunch. We were happy to go along and thankful to have "tour guides". Admission to the fair is only $1 or $2, depending on your age. There are 2 basic Festival venues: the official fairgrounds and the streets of the city (including restaurants and bars). There are vendors everywhere and many places have bands or live music until the wee hours of the morning (again, glad we aren't living "in town").
We entered the official fairgrounds through a large building that is filled with vendors selling everything. When we exited out the other side, I was immediately impressed by all the beautiful flowers - many different varieties and colors and LOTS of them:
There were booths from all kinds of vendors, from cell phone companies to a guy selling a gadget to core pineapples. Lots of food vendors, too. What would a festival be without food? Our friends were looking for a specific vendor that sells nice, 100% cotton shirts. They bought several of them at last year's festival and wanted to get more. He claimed they were some of the most comfortable shirts he's ever worn. He was a man with a mission. We did finally find the vendor with the shirts and our friend was right: they were light and comfortable. All four of us ended up buying at least one shirt each.
We didn't buy anything else. We just wandered around, admired the flowers and "window shopped" at different booths.
Outside the fairgrounds the streets were full of other vendors - I'm not sure if they were "official" or not. Come to think of it, that's true with a lot of things around here...
There were horses of all sizes for the kids to ride, up and down the street. The cars just dodged around the horsie riders and those of us on foot had to watch where we stepped. For us big kids, there was the opportunity to hop up on a big 'ole bull. I thought it would be a great picture for the blog but Tina wasn't willing to do it. Oh well...
There are several festivals in Boquete throughout the year but this one is the biggest. It was a fun experience but 10 days of festival was plenty. It's great for the local economy, however, I couldn't help feel like the whole town let out a collective sigh of relief when it ended.
By the way, you may notice I didn't say anything about the "coffee" part of the Flower & Coffee Festival. That's because I didn't see anything related to coffee. There were a few vendors selling coffee but other than that, I'm not sure where the coffee figures into the festivities. The flowers are the stars of the show.
Posted by Mark