The 2017 Desfile de Silleteros (Flower Parade) took place on August 7, which was a Monday and the last day of La Feria de las Flores. This year was the 60th year of Desfile de Silleteros. The first one was held back in 1957. The two biggest events at Feria de las Flores each year are the Desfile de Silleteros and Desfile de Autos Clasicos.
Desfile de Silleteros is a unique parade where paisas of all ages carry flower displays known as silletas on their backs for hours. In the parade each year, the participants range from little kids to men and women in their 60s and even older.
The flower arrangements for Disfile de Silleteros each year are made in the nearby pueblo of Santa Elena. And they are entered in a competition in various categories.
You can also see our photos from the 2018 Desfile de Silleteros (Flower Parade).
History of Desfile de Silleteros
The tradition of silleteros has its roots back in the 19th century when people in the rural areas in Antioquia used these silletas (chair-like) devices to carry the sick and elderly. Santa Elena flower growers were the first to use the silleta to carry flowers, vegetables and herbs to market in Medellín. And they used the silleta to take food and household items they bought in Medellín back to their homes.
The first Feria de las Flores, or flower festival, took place in Medellin in May 1957. It was organized by Arturo Uribe, a member of the Board of the Office of Development and Tourism. The idea behind this event was to help promote the flower industry in Colombia.
The first festival lasted for five days with an exposition of flowers displayed in the Catedral Basílica Metropolitana. In addition, the first silleteros parade took place with about 40 men from Santa Elena carrying on their backs flower arrangements to the exposition site
The following year in 1958, the month of the festival was changed to August. This was done to celebrate the independence of Antioquia. Over the next 60 years, additional events were added to the festival, which increased the duration to the current 10 to 11 days.
2017 Desfile de Sileteros
There was a total of 510 silleteros this year in Desfile de Sileteros. There were 410 adults, 60 juniors and 40 kids who participated this year.
The silleteros had to walk 1.4 miles (2.3 km) in the flower parade carrying floral arrangements that can reportedly weigh up to 50 to 120 kilograms. Silleteros received between 1,266,305 and 2,593,957 pesos per silleta for being in the parade.
The Absolute Prize for the best flower arrangement in the entire parade this year went to a traditional silleta by John Jairo Grajales Gómez from the town of El Porvernir. He also won in the Traditional category. Like past years, additional prizes were awarded in the Commercial, Monumental, Traditional, Junior and Children’s categories.
Luis Gonzalo Zapata won in the Monumental category, Samuel Alzate was won the Commercial category, Ismael Hincapié won the Child category and Paulina Alzate won the Junior category.
There were also 23 of the original silleteros from the first parade in 1957. They were near the beginning of the parade riding in several of the antique cars from the Desfile de Autos Clasicos that was on Sunday.
Feria de las Flores also is a popular time for foreigners to be visiting Medellín. Reportedly 6,077 foreigners had entered Medellín through immigration during the first seven days of the 11-day festival. And many of these foreigners came to see the flower parade.
My Experience at Desfile de Silleteros This Year
The past few years I was able to get press passes to Desfile de Silleteros, which enabled me to get on the street with the parade. But his year I had no success, as press passes are becoming more difficult to get to the flower parade. This is due to an increasing number of press from around the world covering the parade.
So, this year I purchased a ticket for the bleachers. I was lucky I bought early as there were only 4,000 tickets available. In previous years, there were reportedly almost four times as more bleacher seats available when the flower parade ran along the river.
I bought a ticket hoping to get some cover from the sun and also in case it rained. However, I found that the bleachers didn’t protect from the sun to my disappointment. But there was food and drinks being served in the bleachers.
The parade was scheduled to start at 2 pm, so I arrived at noon hoping to get a good seat in the bleachers. But I found the bleachers were almost full already. And a pre-parade started soon after I arrived with some party trucks and police, military and firefighter marchers plus bands.
The flower parade didn’t start to arrive until after 3 pm, since I was near the end of the parade route. But it was worth the wait.
Photos From the 2017 Desfile de Silleteros
Here are an additional 18 photos from the flower parade this year.
The Bottom Line: Desfile de Sileteros
This year was my eighth year to see Desfile de Sileteros. It’s the world-famous flower parade in Medellín that has grown over the past 60 years to become an 11-day festival this year – Feria de las Flores 2017.
During Feria de las Flores each year, Medellín comes alive as the city displays its proud heritage in the colors of its flowers that grow in and around the countryside. During the 11-day festival this year there were hundreds of events but the flower parade is one of the two biggest. It’s definitely an event that shouldn’t be missed if you are in Medellín during this time.
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