LAREDO, Spain – For the last 110 years, the Spanish town of Laredo has been richly adorned to celebrate the Battle of Flowers, a parade of floats decorated with thousands of blossoms that pass through the streets of this village and fill it with color, traditional music and folks wearing green scarves.
The battle, whose only bits of violence were the “cannon shot” of fireworks that kicked off the parade and the tossing of petals, brought together this year nine floats that paraded for two-and-a-half hours through the streets of this village before thousands of spectators.
The floats are mostly composed of dahlias and marigolds grown and placed in artistic designs by the float makers themselves, who pick them the night before to make sure they will be as fresh and colorful as possible. The flowers are arranged on the floats that same Thursday night before the festival, known to one and all as “Magic Night.”
The flower festival has been declared a Fiesta of National Touristic Interest in Spain and an Intangible Asset of Local Ethnographic Interest; its organizers this year distributed 104,000 euros ($114,150) among its participants and have hopes of going international with the event.
The origin of the Battle of Flowers goes back to 1908, when vacationing families and residents of this coastal town decided to celebrate the end of summer by decorating and parading boats in the local harbor, given Laredo’s ties with the fishing industry.
After years at sea, however, the celebration was moved onto terra firma and the date was changed: in the beginning it was the last Sunday of every August but in the 1960s it was moved to Friday, as it remains to this day. Only in 1936 was no fiesta held.
The competition is divided into two categories of prizes: one for the most elaborate float and the other for the best children’s float.
The jury evaluates the size, volume, complexity of construction, design, art, originality and the beauty of the flowers.
There is also one prize for the float in general and another for the best costume worn by one of the volunteers in the parade.
All the floats – also called “allegories” because they symbolize a theme – are accompanied by dance, music and many children, indispensable for this traditional holiday, as many participants told EFE during the festival of flowers.
This year the allegories went from Freddie Mercury to Greek mythology by way of Popeye, the Victorian style, marionettes, hippies and human mortality.
All gave three turns around the enclosed circuit near the Laredo city hall for over two and a half hours, in an occasion full of flowers, music and a joyful atmosphere before the locals and tourists on hand to watch the parade.