September 27, 2023

Medellin’s ‘Silletero’ Flower Parade Draws 800,000; Special Photo Collage

The 59th annual “Desfile de Silleteros” (flower-carriers’ parade) on Avenida Guayabal in Medellin this month drew 800,000 spectators along the 1.94-kilometers-long parade route, provoking cheers, tears and amazement over jaw-dropping feats of endurance, beauty, art, dance and music.

For this year’s parade, Medellin Herald brought two outstanding photo-journalists from the United States to get up-close portraits of the silleteros, dancers, musicians and the orgy of flowers.

The Detroit-based husband-and-wife photographic team of John Stormzand and Donna Stormzand — who together boast some 70 years’ experience in photo-journalism — took more than 1,000 photos of this year’s event, from which Medellin Herald is presenting some of their best shots in a photo-montage below this story.

The Stormzand team has photographed hundreds of parades in the USA, over the past four decades. But they were stunned by the beauty, novelty and endurance of the Silleteros. “It reminds me of Jesus carrying the cross,” John Stormzand told Medellin Herald, remarking on the Herculean feat of carrying flower-creations weighing up-to-150-pounds on their backs.

According to the official statement from the Medellin Mayor’s office, the 10-days-long Feria de las Flores (Medellin Flower Festival) brought-out more than 1 million spectators this year, capped by the Silleteros parade on August 7.

In total, 500 silleteros — 430 adults, 30 juniors and 30 children — marched along the parade route, accompanied by scores of dancers, musicians, artists, equestrians and military.

This year, Blanca Rosa Atehortua Grisales won the grand prize for her family’s spectacular flower design, which featured an environmental-protection message favoring forest conservation.

The flower festival attracted 11% more visitors this year than last, while the foreign-visitor count jumped 9.3% year-on-year. Colombians living outside of Colombia also are an ever-growing portion of visitors to the festival, up 12.8% this year compared to 2015, according to the Mayor’s office.

Events (including Colombiamoda) just prior and during the flower festival resulted in a 96% hotel occupation, the Mayor’s office added.

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