The Free State Flower Festival
South Africa’s first flower festival – The Free State Flower Festival – saw the streets of Parys filled with floats, dancers, puppeteers and performers showcasing over 100 000 flowers, all in the hopes of boosting trade and tourism for the area.
Street parades are not common here in Johannesburg, so when I heard about the Free State Flower Festival, best believe I was attending. Oh, and did I mention entrance was free!
Parys, a sleepy town in the Free State, is about an hour and 25 min from Johannesburg. A straight simple ride along the highway. Roads are in great condition, so the time flies by.
Here’s a tip, take the R59 to Parys, rather than the more popular option – the N1 – if you want to cut down costs and avoid tolls.
The main street in Parys – Bree Street – was the stage for the parade and local businesses were taking advantage of the increase in visitors. Cafes, restaurants and even small boerewors stands were packed.
The actual parade kicked off around 13h30 with over 600 participants involved. Dancers, performers, and puppeteers were spread out between five massive flower floats.
There’s no doubt that these floats were the star of the show, featuring over 100 000 flowers. They were amazing!
A team of nine designers from Madeira – home of the world’s largest flower festival – created the five floats over the past week.
Why The Free State Flower Festival?
The event was the brainchild of Free State Premier, Ace Magashule, and Madeiran President, Alberto Joao Jardim, following a trade visit to the Portuguese island in March this year.
“As many of you know, the island of Madeira is renowned for its wonderful flora. President Albuquerque suggested that we explore opportunities around the exportation of flowers from the Free Sate into Europe,” said Magashule.
Free State Tourism Authority CEO, Dhilosen Pillay explained that the bulk of African flower exports into Europe currently come from Kenya. It’s hoped that through the Madeiran link, the event would unlock critical opportunities for South African growers.
“The Festival is really a creative way to stimulate the flower industry. By raising its profile, we will draw more participation and fast track opportunities around export, at the same time.
“As a tourism authority, we will also use the event to stimulate tourism in the region and draw thousands of visitors from Gauteng and surrounding provinces to quaint Parys,” said Pillay.
While the one-hour parade was certainly enjoyable, I’m looking forward to the annual event improving. Ideally, I’d like to see more actual growers highlighting their products. I would have loved an opportunity to buy some fresh flowers straight from the growers. Who knows, maybe next year!