The Feria de las Flores translates into “Festival of the Flowers” or more commonly said in English “Flower Festival”. The 1 1/2 mile outdoor flower parade is the largest in the world and holds a reported Guinness Book of World Record because so.
How would I sum up the Flower Parade in Medellin, Colombia? I would say it’s half Iron Man, 1/4 beauty and a 1/4 guts of the people. The Feria de las Flores might be one of the most physically challenging parades I have ever witnessed and was surprised at who actually carried the majority of the flowers. Women and kids made up a large portion of the 500 attendees who participated this year.
Started in 1957 by Colombian Arturo Uribe, a member of the Board of the Office of Development and Tourism for Medellin, wanted to promote tourism to the city and highlight the flower producing industry at the same time. Now it’s become the biggest single holiday for Medellin for the year, as it’s a weeklong celebration with different events taking place everyday, finishing with the Feria de las Flores Flower Parade on Sunday.
Some 500 people walk the long route with loads of flowers strapped to their backs. It’s not just young people who walk this either, as it ranges from kids to senior citizens and is truly an Iron Man task to complete.
The Flower Festival is truly a prideful event for the Paisa people and it’s an honor for them to complete the parade without assistance.
Below are pictures of the many people who participated and acted as silleteros (people who would carry flowers on their backs in the fields back in the old days). Could you finish this parade without help and bearing a load of that size on your back?
The other part of the photo-essay can be found here at “The Crazy & Colorful People In The Feria de Las Flores Parade” in which I show you the vibrant and colorful crazies in the parade.
The United States imports around 70 percent of its cut flowers from Colombia
Colombia is #2 in the world for exporting flowers, just behind Holland
Medellin is Colombia's second biggest city with a population of 3.7 million people. Bogotá the capital is #1 with a population of 9.6 million people (as of 2005)
People from Medellin are often called "Paisas" in Colombia
Ladies march along the the parade route carrying their heavy loads on their backs
The flower displays range from big to small. The lightest would weigh about 15k (33 lbs) and go as high as 85k. Some were made for businesses with their slogans located somewhere in the display and others were made purely for art reasons.
Walking 2.5k (or 1.55 miles) with a load of flowers weighing from 70k-85k (154 lbs-187 lbs) is no easy feat. This man has one of the larger flower displays. Having to stop and turn every 20ft to show the crowd on both sides of the street makes the task even more harder. By the end of the parade I am sure one would be tired of people screaming “vuelta” in Spanish for turning around so they can see the flowers on their back.
Seeing the pain on their faces. This was about half way through the parade.
Even little kids are part of the parade carrying there own little mini-set of flowers. It’s a pride thing to start joining the parade at a young age.
The crowd lined up along the main street route for the parade, while the military keep order. Standing on the left side is free but to get access to the right you have to buy a ticket and sit in a bleacher stand that has shade. Cost this year was 50,000 COP (about $28 USD).
The ticket for the bleacher stands are made out of cloth. I had never seen that before and it’s like getting a cool patch that you can sew on later to your bag or jacket. I think they do it like this because it would be hard to counterfeit these tickets in a short time without it costing more to make then just buying one.
A police helicopter drops flowers onto the crowd below. Only in Colombia would this be legal as I could just see the lawsuits in the US ringing if they did something like this at a parade. It just shows you how involved everyone is in Medellin to make this the biggest celebration of the year!
Women as old as 60+ years old also walked the parade route. Some looked to be as old as 75+!
An old women blind in one eye is marching on. It was humbling to see such dedicated women keeping the tradition alive for the festival.
A girl is given water by an assistant. Through out the parade people were walking along side the silleteros to help them when needed. Some had as many as two-three to help them turn or carry their flower display.
The only person I seen that couldn’t finish the parade route on his own. Two assistants, one carrying his flowers and the other helping him along, as the older gentleman waves to the cheering crowd. I wonder how many times he’s participated in the Flower Festival?
Being hunched over the whole time with a load is no easy task. Some made it seem simple, others grinned their teeth and moved forward showing the pain on their faces as they went along.
This man was carrying one of the biggest displays of the event
The detail that goes into the flower displays is what makes this parade so famous
Not a wasted seat along the parade route. This boy was clever enough to find a perfect spot while relaxing. If you showed up late you either had to climb a tree to get a view of the action or suffer trying to stand on your tippy toes looking over the heads of others.