Flower Hour of Colombian Parade

By MIchael Shain

As ethnic parades go, it seems there is one every weekend somewhere in New York. But the Festival de las Flores, a Colombian tradition that is just taking root in Queens, is not your standard bands-and-beauty-queens march.

The star of the Northern Boulevard parade, begun six years ago in Jackson Heights, is the “silletas,” six-foot medallions made completely from fresh flowers, carried by people from Santa Elena, Colombia, where this tradition began in the 19th century.

The Silleteros are flown here from Colombia expressly to carry the 80-pound displays in the parade. Bystanders tip the Silleteros along the parade route for their hard work.

Parade organizers have an art department to create the silletas, most of which are sponsored by local businesses, airlines, even the NYPD and Queens College.

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