La Feria de las Flores began with Desfile de Silleteros (a flower parade) back in 1957, and slowly evolved into a 10-day affair with a myriad of events and parties to suit every paisa in Antioquia.
The 2015 Desfile de Silleteros took place on August 9, which was the last Sunday of La Feria de las Flores.
The 58th edition of the parade this year celebrated that the “silletero” tradition has now been declared an Intangible Heritage of Colombia.
This year in the flower parade there were 420 adults, 30 children aged seven to 12 and 50 teenager aged 13 to 17. Organizers of the event estimated that more than 800,000 people watched the parade along the 2.4-kilometer route (1.5 miles) this year.
It’s a one of a kind parade where paisas of all ages carry flower displays on their backs, for hours. Everyone from little kids to women and men in their 60s and even older can be seen carrying the flowers.
The oldest this year was Pastora Zapata, an 88-year-old woman, who was participating in the parade for her 58th time.
The flower arrangements are made in the nearby pueblo of Santa Elena and entered in a competition in various categories. There are a plenty of commercial displays too, which are advertisements made of flowers.
The tradition has its roots in the 19th century when people in rural areas in Antioquia used these silletas (chair-like) contraptions to carry the sick and elderly.
Flower growers in Santa Elena were the first to use the silleta to carry flowers to Medellín’s markets.
Photos from Desfile de Silleteros 2015
This year I was fortunate to receive a press pass as a writer for the Medellín Living website. The press pass enabled me to enter the barricades and take better photos on the street.
Since it was threatening rain this year, I went to the parade about 90 minutes early to enable buying a ticket to one of the stands in case it rained. I was able to find someone selling tickets for few dollars over the face value similar to my experience last year.
I waited in one of the stands for the parade to start, which started about 40 minutes later than the scheduled time of 2 p.m. Luckily it didn’t rain so I was able to spend much of my time in the street with the other press taking photos of the parade.
The Absolute Prize for the best flower arrangement in the parade this year went to a traditional silleta by artisan and flower grower Carlos Alberto Grisales Ramirez from the town of Santa Elena.
Additional prizes were awarded in the Emblematic, Monumental, Traditional, Commercial, Junior and Children’s categories, according to the type of flower-decked silletas.
Note that the silletas are heavy and can weigh up to about 160 pounds, which is why there are Colombian versions of boy and girl scouts walking along with the silleteros to help out.
In between the silleteros, you’ll see marching bands and dance troupes performing.
The parade this year had a number of dance troupes in colorful costumes demonstrating a number of Colombian dances.
Purdue University’s Marching Band was in Medellín for several days, as can be seen in this calendar.
The band was towards the end of Desfile de Silleteros and I also saw them performing earlier in the week in El Centro in front of Museo de Antioquia.
The bottom line is that Desfile de Silleteros was the highlight event of the 2015 La Feria de las Flores and the parade was definitely worth seeing this year.