The Battle of Flowers in Laredo

Destination

Laredo

Spain

Season

August

Durations

1 Day

The Battle of Flowers in Laredo, La Batalla de Flores

The biggest event of Laredo is the Battle of Flowers - in fact, a parade of allegorical floats made of thousands of flowers

Laredo is a town in the autonomous community of Cantabria, it has just over twelve thousand inhabitants but thanks to the beautiful La Salvé beach, it is a popular resort. The coast is lined with a long chain of hotels; a small historic center dates back to Roman times. The medieval stone walls are tastefully decorated with painted pictures, and even the barred niches look more cheerful because the pensive ladies look from them.

The most important event of Laredo is Batalla de flores, the Battle of flowers, which for over a hundred years takes place on the last Friday of August, and of course, it is not a battle, but a parade of allegorical floats.

The festivity was born in 1908 and as most of the inhabitants were seafarers, the first one was held on the water. It had tremendous success that prompted the local government to make it a tradition. However, they moved it from the water to dry land so even those who did not own a boat could participate.

Preparations begin in the fall, when the teams - las cuadrillas de carrocistas - design a project of their carriage, make an estimate of what they will need to produce it, and then plant it and grow it on their own fields. Once upon a time they used mostly chrysanthemums, roses and hydrangeas, today also dahlias, carnations, magnolias, margaritas, gerberas and marigolds (those yellow and orange flowers that don’t smell very pleasantly).

On the eve of the battle, they pick them up and sort by color; if necessary, they fill some of them with blue, green or turquoise dye. The Magic Night, Noche magica starts. It is the time when the whole cuadrilla gathers and commences with work. In the gigantic hangars, there are already chassis with polystyrene or synthetic cork statues standing. The teams have to "dress" them by morning, by sticking or nailing flower heads in the base. Petals, destined for fine details, are fixed with a special glue made of water and flour, the leaves are stapled. The most important thing is that everything holds together.

Floats should be 6 to 8.5 meters long, 3.5 to 5 meters wide, 5-7 meters high. Paper and plastic are forbidden, only real flowers and leaves are allowed for decoration. They have to cover at least 75 percent of the surface area, so some floats may easily use up to hundred thousand flowers!

The whole city is involved in the preparations, everyone who has two hands, both young and old, helps. There is a struggle with time and agitation in the air, indeed, after many months people will finally see the result of their effort.

When I came to Laredo in the morning, carrocistas were working on the last details. The program included not only an explanation of what the floats represented, but also a list of addresses where they were making them. Therefore, I came around hangars that were still surrounded by many crates with colorful flower heads, but the creations had already a shape. People were putting just the finishing touches, adding a few petals here or there. Pictures on the boards documented everything from the first drawings through planting to harvesting.

By noon, they all pushed their floats into the starting positions, into the strait streets around the main square.

They proudly took pictures with them, and then went for lunch, they ate, drank and sang in front of the bars. In the meantime, tourists took the opportunity to admire closely the amazing sculptures.

All day long, bands, drummers and dancers performed on the streets; marketers offered traditional Cantabrian products - cheeses, garlic braids, sausages and goodies whose smell called you from afar.

At 4 pm, crowds started gathering around the Circuito de la Alameda de Miramar square. The moderator took the floor at 5 pm (talkative Spaniards master the art of talking half an hour about nothing) and only at half past five, after the mayor's speech, the parade finally began. People from nearby houses released balloons and showered us with confetti.

Alameda is actually a wide route around the center, in the neighborhood of blocks of flats; no one had to jostle and everyone had a good view. The carriages adorned with fresh flowers shone between grey buildings like suns, especially those yellow and orange. The masterpieces of the local artists were slowly moving forward, pulled and pushed at once by human force - three witches sitting on the huge pumpkins, ancient Egypt, Rome, jester, Japanese; completed by girls or children dressed according to the theme. Music, costumed dancers and proud carrocistas, enjoying the well-deserved applause, accompanied them. There was no fight, just some people sprayed us with Silly String and threw on us colored papers. There was an unpleasant odor of marigold in the air because it prevailed in decoration.

Sixteen floats made two rounds, so the panel of judges had a good chance to see them. They evaluated the overall appearance, size, composition, originality, quality of workmanship, the quantity of flowers and outfits of the people.

When the winners were awarded, the third round with trophies followed; then the floats parked in the square. Immediately the forklift trucks approached them; they served to bear down girls, standing up on the "perches". They picked them like pears.

However, the fun wasn't over, the contestants and spectators went into the streets where the festivities continued until morning. The spectacular midnight fireworks over the sea meant a symbolic end of the tourist season, but nobody cared. While it is warm and the bars are open, fun will continue, olé!

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