My Insane Day at the Feria de las Flores Car Parade

The Feria de las Flores is a hugely popular week long festival for both foreign and national tourists in and around Medellín. Many events are scheduled daily, including the annual Desfile de autos clásicos y antiguos (parade of antique and classic cars) which I attended for the 2022 edition. Things did not exactly go as I imagined…

A family member scored a bunch of tickets for the car parade through her company and offered to include us. Our group departed from her home near Enrique Olaya airport in separate Didi rides (similar to Uber), a first for me. In my transport, my favorite 19 year old niece was the only one who apparently knew the location of the event — I only knew it was around avenida San Juan.

Before I understand what’s going on, the Didi guy is entering the southbound Regional, the main north-south highway and then stops on the shoulder. I’m asking why the hell we’re stopping on a freeway, and my niece assures me it’s fine, so we disembark and I’m thinking the event is happening on our right, but then she points to the other side of the highway across six lanes of heavy traffic, where a pedestrian bridge crosses the Medellín river to the northbound lanes of the Regional. That’s where the event is taking place!

What? Stroll across six lanes of unrelenting traffic including motorcycles zipping between vehicles on a rainy day? What is this? A game of Frogger? Crossy Road? Before I can finish saying that this is insanity and we’ll be killed, some random man is coming from the other side of the highway, I call him Moses, risking life and limb halting traffic with just his hands up in the air, and my niece and daughter, both area natives, are already running across. I have no choice so here’s this freakishly tall gringo running across, terror in his eyes, motos screeching to a halt inches from us all along the way. It lasted only a few seconds and we were safely on the other side, but it could have been our final seconds! And yes, I tipped Moses!

That episode over, we tread our way through countless vendors and throngs of people along a mile long narrow and muddied track behind an endless line of temporary tiered seat structures. Our reserved section is in the Regional’s tunnel under the Parque del Rio, so it takes a while to adjust to the darkness. There we sit for 105 minutes, first watching regular traffic zip by since the highway is still open, choking us with fumes, then empty highway before the first vehicles make their appearance. During that eternal wait, bored and probably already drunk spectators loudly cheered any hapless cyclists making their way across the tunnel in the far lane reserved for them.

Here’s where classic car parades here and in Gringolandia diverge: In the old country, they drive slowly and deliberately so you can get a good look at their lovingly restored cars, but here they drive like they always drive: like a bat outta hell! Hey, is that a 1967 Mustang? Zoooom. I dunno, went by too fast! Even large flatbed trucks with dancing people and bands zip by at 30-40 miles an hour, so no idea what type of music they were playing! My wife theorizes that it’s because we’re at the end of the parade route and they’re eager to finish (the race?), but I have my doubts!

Regardless of the above sequence of events, Paisas know how to put on a show, and the crowd of mostly locals are loving every minute of it if their constant cheers and dancing are any indication! One notable part of the parade is when about 40 or 50 restored funeral cars from different eras make their way across (at a clip no funeral procession would!) I’d never seen anything like it! Another is a surprisingly big collection of very old fire engines, including ladders. The loudest cheers go to a random guy on a bicycle with a terrified real cat on his hat! A large and impressive assortment of classic and antique cars fly by during about an hour and five minutes, not really in any order at all. Colombians love cars, this is abundantly evident by the sheer number of classic vehicles flying by!

Video: restored old fire engine (one of the few that went slower!)

Leaving the venue on foot along with tens of thousands of other people has its difficulties as you can imagine, and we chose to walk to the Premium Plaza through some industrial areas of El Poblado, and I’ll spare you the details!

If you’re a car enthusiast, this is an event you’ll love regardless, but I do recommend strongly that you pack some snacks as the food vendors appeared to be quite random and of dubious hygiene! Drinks, including beer, were abundantly available and prices were quite reasonable (75 US cents for a bottle of Gatorade or Coke, for example).

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