On the last Sunday in July, a very special, very strange celebration occurs in Valencia near the Túria riverbed. Since 1891, this crazy event celebrates the life in Valencia and marks the end of the Fería de Julio, or July Fair. Held on the last Sunday in July, and tied deeply to the Fallas traditions in the city, the Valencianos compete again for prizes and recognition to flaunt in front of their neighboring falla guilds, or casals fallers.
This year, the event was held on a ridiculously hot day, and I was sweating with the rest of the thousands of people who had come out to watch the spectacle. You might think that a celebration held at 8:00PM might be a little cooler, but gentle reader, it was definitely not. The abundant sunlight that characterizes most of Spain was in full force that evening, making for a hot, humid, and sticky event.
Regardless of the heat, the crowd enjoyed seeing the spectacle, which occurs in three parts. First, there is a parade of horse-drawn floats, loaded with falleras in traditional costumes or themed costumes that match their float. An announcer introduces each float in Valenciano (which I don’t understand, sadly), and the steady stream of floats continues until all groups are introduced. The concourse for the Batalla de Flores is a long, skinny strip of land, so participating groups enter, then circle the entire area so everyone gets a good look at the floats and the participants.
A word about the floats: WOW. Most are decorated with flowers and incredibly artistic that are imaginative and interesting. Whether taken from movie inspirations, sheer creativity, or hobbies, the floats alone are worth watching this event. I have to admit, though, that felt a little bad for the horses… I hope they were well-rewarded after this event.
Second, prizes are awarded to each of the category winners (again, not terribly knowledgeable about this, but as competitive as Spaniards are, this is apparently quite important!). Prizes are in the form of banners to be suspended from the floats during the Batalla. At this point, the floats continue to wheel around the course so the banners can be accepted. As you can imagine, this takes a good while!
Finally, after about an hour and a half of waiting and watching the floats move in a circle, the Batalla de Flores is kicked off with fireworks. Floats start moving in a steady rotation while audience members lob flowers at the floats. For their part, the falleras use tennis rackets to hit flowers back to the audience. Some falleras seem afraid of the flowers, and some look at this as an opportunity to be a little more aggressive in their thousand-dollar dresses.
All said, this was a definite spectacle and worth attending. If you want to go to this, make sure to buy tickets for seats up close to the action. Check with florists and online at the Fería de Julio website to buy tickets, but the ticket sales close several days prior to the event. Otherwise, you will be standing behind the paid seats, and while the view is not the best, you don’t want to miss out on the flower throwing. Trust me, I found out the hard way.