Beauty & Tradition at the Flower Festival Parade – Medellin, Colombia


This post is part 1 of 5 in the series Flower Fair in Medellin

The birthplace of narco terrorist Pablo Escobar is also the birthplace of grown men who make huge, elaborate flower arrangements and carry them on their backs. It’s a legacy that’s celebrated with beauty and tradition during the annual Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) in Medellin, Colombia. The main event is the Desfile de las Flores (Flower Parade) during which massive floral arrangements are carted through the streets of Medellin by young and old alike.

Silleta Monumental Silletero

Silleteros who carry flower arrangements in the Flower Parade in Medellin are required to wear traditional clothing including the carriel bag which is made from patent leather and cow hide.

Flower Festival Medellin by the numbers

The Flower Festival numbers are staggering:157 events over 10 days including 400 activities (fireworks, food, traditional singing competitions, open-air concerts and more) enjoyed by more than 700,000 people.

Winner Emblematico silleta Ganador absoluto de desfile de Silleteros

Spoiler alert! This 3D flower arrangement that even had moving parts took home top honors in the emblematic category and took grand prize honors as well.

Medellin Flower Parade

Beauty everywhere at the annual Flower Parade in Medellin, Colombia.

The central event of the Flower Festival in Medellin is the Flower Parade which includes 500 men, women and children (called silleteros) carrying enormous and elaborate flower arrangements on wooden contraptions (called silletas) on their backs. More than 600,000 individual flowers are used to create the arrangements, some weighing as much as 220 pounds (100 kilos). Twelve event judges ultimate hand out awards for top examples in various categories.

The ugly origins of the Flower Festival

In Colonial times the wooden silletas were used by slaves to carry wealthy men and women up and down the mountains that rise around Medellin and throughout the district of Antioquia. In a post-slavery world, a woman named Maria La Larga used her silleta to carry children and that inspired farmers to imagine the silleta as a way to get their produce–including flowers–to market.

Desfile de Silleteros carriel

The tradition of being a silletero is usually passed on from generation to generation.

Today, Colombia ranks just behind Holland in global flower production with the rural Santa Elena area of Medellin as a central hub. The first Flower Festival was held in 1957 to honor and encourage farmers in the region. It spanned just five days and the Flower Parade attracted just 40 silleteros.

Samuel Sanchez ganador silleta Infantil

Spoiler alert again! Seven year old Samuel Sanchez came out on top in the children’s category. You’ll see more of his adorable face and amazing flower arrangement below.

On the eve of the 57th annual Flower Festival 2014, held August 1-10 in Medellin, we present our top moments from the massive Flower Parade from last year’s celebration where we joined the masses lining the parade route to see just what you can do with 600,000 flowers.

The spectacular Flower Parade of silleteros  in Medellin

Silleta Emblematico Medellin flower parade

An entry in the emblematic category depicting part of the skyline and the famous metro system of the city of Medellin.

Emblematico silleta

A silletero puts some finishing touches on his entry in the emblematic category.

Judging Tradicional Silletas

Judges inspecting entries in the traditional category before the start of the Flower Festival Flower Parade in Medellin.

Finalistas Silletas Monumental

A lineup of the finalists in the monumental category during the Flower Parade in Medellin. Click to see full-size image.

Finalistas Silletas Tradicional

A lineup of the finalists in the traditional category during the Flower Parade in Medellin. Click to see full-size image.

Finalistas Ganador absoluto de desfile de Silleteros

From left to right: The winners in the traditional, monumental and emblematic categories face off for the overall grand prize.

Mauricio Londoño Ganador absoluto de desfile de Silleteros

Mauricio Londoño (on his knee) gets rushed by family as he’s named overall winner of the Flower Parade in Medellin.

Check out our video, below, to see more of the serious and emotional judging and awards process.

Silletera Traditional Silleta

A girl carries her entry in the traditional category.

Silletero Silleta Monumental

Another proud silletero.

Silletero Silleta Tradicional

This guy made it look easy to carry his entry in the traditional category.

Silletas Tradicional

A pre-parade lineup of entries in the traditional category.

Silletera Medellin Flower Parade

A traditionally dressed silletera gathers her strength before shouldering her entry in the monumental category.

 

Carrying a Heavy Silleta Monumental

This elaborate depiction of a silletero carrying the Medellin skyline on his back (left)  took second place in the emblematic category. Boy scouts were on hand during the Flower Parade to assist silleteros with particularly heavy loads like this one.

Carrying a Heavy Silletas

Boy scouts were on hand during the Flower Parade to assist silleteros with particularly heavy loads like these.

Samuel Sanchez Atehortua ganador silleta Infantil

Seven year old Samuel Sanchez charmed the crowd and the judges, taking home top honors in the children’s category.

Childrens-silleta-infantil

Another entry in the children’s category.

Traditional silletas Medellin Flower Parade

Entries in the traditional category during the Flower Parade.

Feria de las Flores Medellin Colombia

Thousands of people line the Flower Parade route and give it a real party atmosphere.

Medellin Flower Fair, Flower Parade

Silleteros carrying traditional flower arrangements during the Flower Parade in Medellin.

Colorful flowers Monumental silleta

It’s a sea of flowers–more than 600,000 of them–during the Flower Parade in Medellin.

Desfile de Silleteros tradicional

More entries in the traditional category.

Watch a sea of flowers move slowly through the streets in our video, below, from the Flower Festival Flower Parade in Medellin, Colombia.

Music Medellin Flower Parade

No parade is complete without music.

Traditional Dancing Flower Parade Medellin

Traditional dancing is also a featured part of the Flower Festival Flower Parade in Medellin.

Traditional Dancers Flower Parade Medellin

Dancers and musicians finding some shade to rest in before the start of Medellin’s famous Flower Parade.

Our video, below, gives you a glimpse of performances by traditional dance troops and musical groups which are also featured in the Flower Parade. It’s really too bad Colombians don’t like to celebrate…

These days the Flower Festival is about more than just flowers. Other top events include the controversial Cabalgata Horse Parade which was cancelled this year (see if you agree with that decision) and a charmingly provincial Classic Car Parade (we hope you like Elvis impersonators and Jeeps). We also take you behind the scenes in Santa Elena where local artisans grow and arrange the flowers and backstage as proud chiva bus owners dress up their vehicles.

Flower Festival Medellin travel tips

Every year the Flower Festival in Medellin brings in thousands of tourists and hotels fill up fast. During last year’s Flower Festival we managed to get a room at 61 Prado Guesthouse and we highly recommend it to any traveler who likes spotlessly clean and comfortable rooms at reasonable rates (US$35 for a private double room with bathroom) in a homey environment just a few blocks from Medellin’s famous metro system. Here’s a primer for the 2014 Flower Festival including parade routes and more in English.

 

Read more about travel in Colombia

 


Series Navigation:<< Controversy Cancels the Flower Festival Horse Parade – Medellin, Colombia

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7 comments on “Beauty & Tradition at the Flower Festival Parade – Medellin, Colombia

  1. Pingback: Flower Power – The Bogota Post

  2. Pingback: Feria de las Flores: Cultural Snippet

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