Join The Silleteros As They Celebrate The Feria De Las Flores In Medellín
This year Medellín celebrates the 62nd annual Flower Festival, officially known as La Feria de las Flores. This tradition began in 1957 when Arturo Uribe, a member of the Board of the Office of Development and Tourism, organized an event to promote Colombia’s flower industry.
Fun fact: Did you know that Colombia is the second largest flower exporter in the world? Only Holland, with its famous tulips, ranks above Colombia. Also, the climate, altitude and growing conditions around Medellín make it one of the most abundant flower producing areas in the country.
This year’s event runs from Friday August 2 until Sunday August 11 when the festival culminates in the Desfile de Silleteros, which means the Parade of the Silleteros in English.
What Is A Silletero?
Many of the best flower growers live in Santa Elena, a small rural area located high up the mountainside from the city of Medellín. In the past, the farmers would carry sick and elderly people up and down the mountain on their backs in chair-like frames. The Spanish term for chair is silla, and the word for saddle is silleta. Thus the person carrying the frame is known as a silletero.
In more recent times, the flower farmers used their silletas to carry their bounty into the city for sale, returning home with food and supplies which they purchased in Medellín. The tradition of carrying flowers has evolved into a parade spectacle which now includes more than 500 flower carriers walking a mile-long route in the blazing August sun.
The current displays vary from traditional bundles of a dozen types of flowers, to enormous (and very heavy) intricately designed flower arrangements in several award categories. Each year judges choose the best silleta in each category and award ribbons and cash prizes to the victors.
Some of the largest silletas are paraded down the route
Only family members from the original silletero families are allowed to participate in the parade. They wear the traditional attire including white open-toed sandals, white shirts, aprons, pants and skirts, Colombian hats or scarves, and more. The silleta is carried by a thick strap which can be placed across the forehead, or hand held across the chest. It is a great honor to participate in the parade which includes children from a very young age up to adults in their 60s, 70s and older.
Five silleteros carrying traditional silletas
A large silleta carried by a man wearing a traditional costume
The parade also features dancers, musicians, decorated vehicles and floats, as well as commercial displays, all adorned with flowers. After the parade, many of the silletas will be on display at various locations around town including Plaza Mayor and some of the shopping malls so you can see the craftsmanship up close.
Classic Car Parade
Each year for the past 24 years, Medellín has hosted a classic car parade which draws more than a million viewers. This year’s parade will be on Saturday August 10th from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. More than 300 cars, of all vintages will be featured, some will also be decorated with flowers and drivers wearing traditional garb.
Prizes are awarded in multiple categories and some of the cars will be on display before or after the parade at the castle (El Castillo) near the border of Envigado and El Poblado.
Chiva Flower Parade
A chiva is a brightly colored, open-air vehicle which was used to transport fruits and vegetables, along with other salable goods from town to town in the past. Now you can ride a chiva around town to tour the city, or dance the night away with friends. Chivas will be decorated for the flower festival and put on parade on August 7th.
Orchid, Flower And Craft Show
The Botanical Garden (Jardín Botánico) hosts a flower extravaganza each year during the Flower Festival. Although the Gardens are usually free of charge, during the Orchid Show, tickets are required. It is well worth the low price of admission to see the intricate floral displays and see the award-winning flowers which are grown and designed by hundreds of Colombians.
Dragons covered in flowers and greenery greet visitors
A Faberge egg made from flowers graces the center of the gardens
Colombia’s national flower is the orchid and you can see a large variety of orchid species on display. This year’s event takes place from August 6th through August 10th, but it’s best to go early to see the flowers at their freshest.
Santa Elena Silletero Tours
To learn the history of the families who participate in the Silletero Parade and see how they grow the flowers and turn them into silletas, you can take a tour of a family farm. Some of the most prominent families open their homes to visitors to share the traditions and techniques which they have used for decades.
A traditional silleta shown in different phases of construction
A larger monumental silleta in the initial stages
You can only tour the flower farms from August 1st until the 10th because the silletas will be leaving the farms early on August 11th to be in the parade.
This is just a small sample of the many events featured in this year’s Flower Festival. At Gutierrez Group, we are proud of our Colombian traditions and excited to share our world-renowned festival with our friends. We are happy to provide more information and answer any of your questions about the Flower Festival, visiting Medellín, places to stay, and more.
Come celebrate with us this August!