By Tammy Scileppi
Colombia’s people are as varied as its landscape, and much like Queens’ multicultural mosaic, the country’s cultural mix makes its foods, music, dance and art diverse and unique.
Most Colombians are descended from three ethnic groups: Indians, African people and European settlers. While that may not match the level of diversity on display here in Queens, it still results in a rich, varied range of cultural offerings.
Many of those offerings will be on display during the seventh annual Festival de las Flores, or Flower Festival. Highlighting spectacular floral art, the festival combines music, food, entertainment and tradition.
Festivities kick off Saturday, with a multicultural fair at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, followed by a family celebration at the Queens Botanical Garden Sunday. Activities will continue through July 10, when there will be a parade in Jackson Heights and a concert at Forest Hills Stadium.
According to organizers, this year’s festival is the biggest ever. Expect lots of beautiful flowers, along with silletas—large, 6-foot medallions that are handcrafted with natural flowers by native Silleteros from Antioquia in northwestern Colombia. The Desfile de Silleteros, a parade through downtown Medellin, Antioquia’s capital, is still a highlight of their Flower Festival, and has attracted crowds since 1957.
The festival made its way to New York City from Colombia in 2010.
“The tradition evolved to what it is now and what is displayed in our Festival de las Flores, a festival that demonstrates the beauty of Colombia, as well as the different cultures that reside in New York City,” said Festival Director and President Luis Eduardo Acosta.
“We began our organization in the hopes of spreading Colombian culture in New York by exhibiting one of the most beautiful crafts created in Antioquia, Colombia, and showcased at our Festival de las Flores, which are the silletas,” he said.
Aside from the floral attractions, there will be lots more to see, hear and do at the festival.
Saturday’s Multicultural Fest, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., will feature live music from both international and local artists, along with comedy group Caballo Loco, and much more. Foods from over 30 vendors will be available and the fest’s family-friendly activities will include ethnic crafts and face painting.
Sunday’s celebration at the Queens Botanical Garden will go from noon to 5 p.m. It will offer attendees the chance to see completed floral creations and have their pictures taken with them. It will also feature live music, crafts, a bilingual story time for kids, and an art exhibit by Colombian visual artist Tatiana Arocha.
At noon on July 10, the Desfile de las Flores, or Flower Parade, will kick off down Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights, going from 69th to 88th streets.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will be at the parade, along with the newly crowned 2016-2017 Flower Queen, Carolina Cañas. A current student at Baruch College, Canas, 20, hails from Medellin.
That evening, Forest Hills Stadium will host the Concierto de las Flores, or Flower Concert, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. This free event will include well-known Colombian comedians from Caracol Internacional’s “Sabados Felices,” popular DJ Camilo from NY’s Hot 97 radio station spinning Latin American hits, and other famous Latin artists to be announced soon.
“I joined the festival to support this incredible movement that has been around for seven years and that focuses on bringing all cultures together through the art of silletas,” said Wendy Angulo, CEO of Wendy Angulo Productions and the events coordinatior for the festival. “As a Queens native and resident, the festival is a beautiful statement of the diversity of our borough,”
If You Go
Festival de las Flores
When: Saturday, June 25, from10 am – 6 pm
Where: Flushing Meadows Corona Park
The Flower Festival
When: Sunday, June 26, from
noon – 5 pm
Where: Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main St., Flushing
Cost: $4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/students and children over 3
Contact: (718) 886-3800