Medellín is turning into a tourist hot spot and in my last article I gave some tips on how to spend a long weekend, but if you're trying to decide the best time of year to come to visit, don't miss the Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival) in early August.
Don't be mislead by the name -- the fun isn't just limited to flowers. With a classic car show, a horse parade, concerts and of course the namesake Desfile de Silleteros, or Flower Parade, there is no shortage of things to do during the 10 days of the feria.
The first Feria de las Flores took place on May 1, 1957 and the following year the festival was moved to August, the month of Antioquia's independence. Antioquia is not only Colombia's second largest department, but perhaps it's most independent and proud. Think the Texas of Colombia.
This year's festival (August 2-11) had particular flair as Paisas (people from Antioquia) were also celebrating Antioquia's 200 years of independence. With flowers on display everywhere you turn, many businesses even have their own silletas (wooden stands used to transport flowers) decorated with their business logo and put on display outside of offices, shops and restaurants, you could feel a sense of pride and excitement throughout the city.
There are hundreds of events during the 10 days of the feria. Here are a few of the most popular:
Desfile de Silleteros (flower parade) - Men, women and children carry their silletas along the 2.2 kilometer parade route. These silletas are true works of art -- each one takes hours, if not days, to decorate with gladiolus, chrysanthemums, lilies, carnations, agapanthus, pansies, sunflowers, orchids and numerous other flowers. In 2013, over 500 silletas were carried along the parade route.
Cabalgata (horse parade) - the world's largest horse parade according to the Guiness Book of World Records. In 2006, 8,233 horses and their riders participated in the event.
Desfile de Autos (car parade) - an antique car parade that showcases cars dating back to the 1920s.
For a full list of official events and other information about the feria, visit the Feria de las Flores website.
Beyond the official events, half the fun is in the numerous concerts, parties and other events that take place during the feria.
With concerts by some of Colombia's favorite artists, such as Mark Anthony (salsa), Fonseca (pop Latino), J Balvin (reggaeton), Silvestre Dangond (vallenato) and Reykon (reggaeton), the excitement is palpable throughout Medellín.
The Alcaldía de Medellín (mayor's office) estimated that 6,870 foreigners visited Medellín for the feria (63 percent greater than last year), in total they estimated that close to two million people participated in the feria with 850,000 people attending the Desfile de Silleteros.
Why are flowers are so important to Colombia / Medellín?
Colombia is the second largest flower exporter globally after the Netherlands, exporting over one billon dollars annually.
Below are some pictures that I took at the three major events listed above: Desfile de Silleteros, Cabalgata and Desfile de Autos.
Mark your calendars and start looking at flights for next year's Feria de las Flores!