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A City In Disguise: The Paraná Costume Party

In 1999 one hundred and fifty people turned up to a fancy dress party. A decade later fifty thousand Batmans, Michael Jacksons and smurfs flock to the annual Paraná Costume Party in Argentina.

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Once upon a time there was a place where everything could happen” was the theme for the 2011 Costume Party (La Fiesta de Disfraces), the massive event held for thirteen years in the city of Parana, Entre Rios, Argentina. All started in 1999 as a party for a group of friends, but some years later, it gathering crowds. Nobody knows for sure if it is the biggest in the world costume party or not, but it’s worth attending if you are in Argentina by that date. It is an event unique in its magnitude, creativity and colorfulness. The streets of the city seem taken by human caricatures, dolls, animals and eccentrics characters. The city turns into a big circus. Everyone shows off their costumes and happiness. Chilean miners and the Fénix Capsule, Michael Jackson, Osama Bin Laden, Shrek, Che Guevara, the Smurfs, Pirates of the Caribbean, Green Lantern, Flash, Batman, Batgirl, Spiderman, The Flintstones, the Kiss, Slash, the Michelin doll, Ronald Mc Donald’s, are among the most popular characters that appear in the city during the previous hours. There are also police officers, FBI agents, soldiers, gangsters, nurses, sexy angels and evils, priests, nuns, brides and avatars.

“We are a group of 22 friends who gather together since many years ago. In 1999 we had the idea of a costume party because seven of us have their birthday in August. At that time we were one hundred and fifty people and this year we are fifty thousand”, says Julian Abramor one of the hosts.

The chosen date is the same every year because there is a national holiday every August in Argentina and most people are available for the long weekend. “All of us were studying outside the city and taking advantage of the long weekend to rent a ballroom, buy drinks, hire a DJ and organize the first party was easier for everyone as there was some extra free time. Every year, each of us would bring their own friends from universities and so and the party became more popular”, says host Jorge Uranga. “The idea then was to celebrate birthdays and not to make money. But some years later we had to limit the amount of participants because there was already too many people”, he recalls. “We got out of hand in 2002″, says Abramor. In that occasion the organizers had planned to host five hundred guests but unexpectedly two thousand people appeared. They ran out of drinks, room, and the party collapsed.

Paraná is located 500 kilometers away from the capital city and each of the 350 thousand inhabitants expresses proud ownership for the party. The Costume Party began to grow up to a large scale six years ago as it was spread rapidly by word of mouth. People who had never heard about it wondered how so many people could be gathered with almost no advertising. The whole city dresses up in disguises and accommodation is always working at full capacity on the eve of the party. “We get tourists from all over Argentina and other countries,” adds Abramor.

But not only the amount of participants increased. Major sponsors decided to join the party and it was declared of tourist interest for provincial and municipal authorities. The organization became a professional company supported by the city council and is estimated to generate a movement of approximately U$S 5 million. “The accommodation capacity of the city is full and there are even people who stay in nearby towns because there is no room”, explains Alejandro Richardet, Secretary of Tourism of Paraná. The Costume Party became so great that some editions ago it started to receive foreign tourists, mainly from Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay and Paraguay.

The place where it is held has eight hectares and is located in the outskirts of the city, just 10 minutes away from downtown. There are big tents with different types of music, bar drinks, a food court, an amusing park with rides and even a first aid tent to handle any emergency that may occur. The surroundings are filled with stalls offering everything from drinks to hamburgers and sweet pastries, including the native “choripan”. Those who have come to this party for many years says that riots are minimum and of little impact. However, prevention is not left out because the security operation includes 400 police and 200 private agents.

Of course there are prizes for best costumes and all attendees participate in taking pictures in the stands placed in different parts of the premises. Voting is open until ten days later and is done through text messages. People come up with an amazing spirit to have fun, meet people from other places and make friends, couple and lovers.
One hundred and fifty people assisted to the first edition in 1999, two thousand in 2002, in 2010 the amount of people raised to thirty five thousand and in 2011 the number grew to 50 thousand. Who knows how many people will take part in 2012? The Costume Party is definitely a place where everything could happen…

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Peter 9:37 pm, 9-Sep-2011

How exciting!

Pop up 5:11 am, 15-Sep-2011

Wow!! I would like to go to Argentina!!

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