September, 11th 2016
Volcan held its second successful Flower Parade on Sunday morning. Although the seven floats were slightly less than last year, the floral creativity more than made up for it. Two of the floats had water fountains and one produced thousands of soap bubbles.
The parade inevitably creates a huge traffic jam (this delayed the start of last year's parade) however the 10:00 am start was only 25 minutes behind schedule. Many people anxiously eyed the dark grey clouds that scudded over the route, but thankfully the much anticipated rain did not appear.
The main park in front of the Bomberos (fire hall) had been extensively improved with the addition of natural-stone raised beds. The true beauty of this is that these civic improvements are permanent and have significantly helped to make Volcan a more desirable place both for tourists and residents.
This flower covered cow was a hit from last year's festival and much to the delight of the tourists; - Connie the cow came back - complete with a feeding trough of grass.
This marching band is acclaimed as the best in all of Panama. They have performed extensively in the United States and they were the musical high point of the parade.
Hopefully by next year there will have been a start on the much promised 4 lane highway coming from Concepcion. This should make an enormous difference to the thousands of visitors who flock to Volcan each year.
Although there has been some government funding, much of the work that has made the flower festival a success is due to the hard work and donations from Volcan's business community.
The static displays and food fairs in the area next to the Bomberos had mixed success. One artisan told me his sales were poor but on Sunday over 8,000 people attended and there were line-ups at the strawberries and cream stalls. Saturday had a horrendous downpour and this certainly dampened spirits and attendance.
If one words can sum up the overall feeling of this festival it would be simply; Fun! The dozens of flower covered animals that were on static display along the roads of Volcan brought smiles from parents and squeals of delight from children.
Volcan's Flower Festival is fairly unique in Panama and the positive comments from visitors will surely bring even more people here next year.
Is all the effort worth it? I was informed by one of the organizers; Jorge Lopez that all the hotel accommodation in Volcan had been fully booked months ago. Full hotels and full restaurants obviously need to employ more people and this trickle-down effect benefits everyone in the community.
The biggest benefit is that it has raised the awareness of Volcan as a tourist destination. And if we can bring thousands of new tourists to this Eternal-Spring mountain town in the miserable months of the rainy season, that will be (in the words of a well known TV commercial)-priceless!