Posted by: adventuressetravels | December 20, 2011

Festival of Flowers

Traditional Silletta

The wiry Colombian farmers tucked one last sprig of flowers into their massive arrangements before hoisting them onto their backs, each one trying to outdo the others, piling more flowers onto wooden chairs that supported the arrangements.  Walking down the mountain with these enormous splashes of color on their backs, the procession made a shocking ribbon of color that stood out ostentatiously from the velvet-green mountainside.  That was how it all started.

Today the flowers, fanfare, and festivities that make up Medellin’s Feria de Flores is a far cry from its humble beginnings.  Each year in late July, bleeding over into early August, Medellin, Colombia invites the world to join it in a whirlwind of color, sound – a festival that takes celebration to a whole new level.

commercial silletta

Since 1957, the city of Medellin hosted a flower exposition.   The city combined this exposition with a parade by inviting 40 flower farmers to the exposition and built their weekend walks into a more formal parade.  The expo and parade worked to stimulate interest from locals and attract visitors from surrounding areas.  And the festival of flowers was born.

As it was from the start, the flower exposition is one of the most important parts of the festival.  Medellin’s world renowned botanical garden is one of the festival centers, hosting a stunning bird and orchid show.  The masterful arrangements of every type of plant and flower imaginable are on display.  I have never seen so many types of flowers in one place.  The flowers hardly look real:  strings of white fairies fluttering down one after the other in front of a

background of green, spider-like orchids with brown spots hang suspended on delicate stems, water lilies float in pools of water with fountains shooting up around them.   The arrangements are achingly beautiful and certainly worth seeing.  Unfortunately it seems like everyone in Colombia knows this and the press of onlookers can feel almost claustrophobic so make sure to go on a weekday.

However, the opening parade of flower floats, flower chairs, or silletas is certainly one of the most beautiful events of the festival, and probably the most unique.

The perfumed works of art at the heart of the festival are the unbelievably intricate flower arrangements known as silletas.   The arrangements are called silletas, because they are based on the flower arrangements carried down by the farmers.   The parade with its original 40 farmers has grown in size to contain more than 500 of these fabulous flower creations

There are four classes of silleta and all of them compete in contests.

Traditional Silletas:

This type of silleta is based on the original silletas that the farmers used to carry their flowers to the city.  The arrangements are a variety of flowers arranged on the same type of chair that the farmers used to carry their wares to the city.  Though they are small, the wooden frame makes them extremely heavy.

“Monumental” Silletas:

Emblematic Silleta

Monumental really is the word for these ostentatious collections of flowers.  The number, variety, and beauty of these portable fields of flowers are astronomical.  Almost garishly bright collections of flowers this silleta is lovely, but over-the-top.  Over-the-top in the best way imaginable.

 

Commercial Silletas:  Quite literally advertisements in flower form, this type of silleta is created to represent a company or institution.  Granted it is some of the prettier advertising I have seen, but these aren’t my favorite silletas

Emblematic Silleta

Emblematic Silletas: Emblematic silletas are literally works of art.  The emblematic silletas are flowers formed in elaborate creations, some pictures, and some are pictures and some three-dimensional almost-statues, to demonstrate a civic or educational message that speaks to global or national concerns.

 

flower festival performance

The flower exposition and silletas are wonderful, but the event has blossomed into something much greater than its humble beginnings.  As if someone had shot enormous cannon filled with petals and shot it at Medellin, every corner of the great city joins the celebration.  There are parades for horses, vintage cars, cat shows, musicians, comedians, performers of all types, and so much more.   There is something for everyone at the festival.

If you’re planning a trip to Medellin, Colombia, I highly recommend going towards the end of July and for the festival of flowers.  Most events are free so whether or not you’re traveling on a budget the festival is the perfect time to visit Medellin.

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