July 10, 2023 By Gabriele Holtermann
The annual Colombian Flower Festival Parade, or Desfile de Silleteros, bloomed along 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights on Sunday, July 9.
Revelers lined up along the parade route between 69th and 87th Streets, celebrating their Colombian heritage, proudly waving Colombian flags, dancing to Colombian tunes and collecting flowers abound handed out by parade participants.
The parade’s highlight were silleteros, Colombian flower carriers dressed in traditional garb, carrying enormous floral arrangements, or “silletas,” large, 6-foot medallions handcrafted with flowers. One carrier shared with Schneps Media that the beautiful arrangements weighed between 80 and 100 pounds.
The beautiful spectacle is deeply rooted in Colombian tradition dating back to the 18th century when farmers would carry their produce to market on their backs. Farmers began decorating their baskets with flowers at the beginning of the 20th century, giving birth to a breathtaking and colorful tradition.
The Queens parade, which began in 2010 and is the brainchild of Festival Director and President Luis Eduardo Acosta, pays homage to the original flower festival in Medellin, Colombia. The South American state is the world’s second-largest exporter of flowers behind the Netherlands and showcases the beauty of Colombia.
The parade opened with the NYPD’s mounted unit and Color Guard, followed by the FDNY Color Guard and fire engines decorated with flowers.
Waving the Colombian flag, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards greeted constituents while NY Assembly Member Catalina Cruz showed off her dance moves along the parade route.
In addition to flower giveaways, folklore groups entertained the crowd with dance performances. The parade concluded with an enormous Jeep motorcade.
Friends Marilyn and Vanessa enjoyed the festivities. Marilynn was visiting from New Jersey, and it was her first time seeing the parade.
“So far, it’s very nice,” Marilyn said. “It’s beautiful.”
Vanessa, a Jackson Heights native,thought it was great to celebrate different cultures.
“Queens is very diverse ethnically. So you can find any dish of food here,” Vanessa said. “So it’s nice to have almost every country acknowledge, you know, their culture, especially Colombians.”
Hector, Yanni and Miguel live around the corner from 37th Avenue and have attended the parade for years.
The parade “means a lot,” said Hector, who immigrated to the United States in 1980
For Miguel, the parade represented Colombian culture, heritage, love, family,and roots.
“It’s beautiful. It really is,” Miguel said.