Men in green suits directing traffic, confetti lining the walkways and girls with flowers in their hair – so the battle has begun. As a newbie to Jersey, this is my first experience of this colourful parade, and as I squeeze past the excitable crowds, I catch a glimpse of the hot-hued majorettes, dancers and floral adorned floats as they snake their way down Victoria Avenue. Music of several variants blares in the background, whilst the multitudes of street entertainers step into character! One thing that springs to mind ‘colourful carnage’.
Various accents float through the crowd – spectators have obviously come from further afield than myself and judging by the ghost town of St Helier, where many of the shops now stand with their shutters firmly down, a number of the locals too!
Standing amidst a mass of 25-foot floral constructions resembling everything from the Magic Roundabout to Geronimo, it felt quite surreal to be amongst one of the many expectant spectators. The Battle of the Flowers, said to be one of the largest floral carnivals in Europe, certainly seems to be a major highlight in jersey’s varied summer calendar of festivals and events. The sights and sounds of this afternoon spectacle, including the many flower festooned floats, musicians, dancers and bands create an essence of carnival magic. My favourite part – the brass band!
The enthusiasm, the joy, the pride of the parade…there was no shortage of excitement on the day, and with everything from carnival rides to live entertainment, I can see why it’s a popular date in the diary! The parades appear scattered across both sides of the arena, which allowed me to catch a preview of each and every flamboyantly decorated float as they moseyed by in a sinuous fashion.
Whilst ensconced amongst the crowd, I managed to make small talk with one of the local’s, who was more than happy to talk me through the carnival antics. After digesting a cascade of knowledge, I now know it’s the individual parishes that produce many of the major floats, and the parade itself was once used as floral ammunition. Expecting to see this in action, my hopes were quickly dashed – the ‘literal’ battle aspect has long been abandoned, and has instead been replaced by a Moonlight Parade, complete with floats festooned in lights and a firework finale. Still an impressive sight, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of moonlight explosions later on the next evening.
As the crowds began to disperse, I discovered that the good honest fun of the funfair still exists – another notch to this battle’s post. The first thing I clock eyes on – the ‘Sky Swing’. As tempting as spinning around a 200 foot pole sounds, I speedily sidestep this (I’m not a big fan of heights).
Hoping to get a taste of everything the battle has to offer, and in response to the wafts of savoury promise, I head over to the International Food Village. The stalls, which appeared to be groaning with a variety of tempting treats in the shape of Transylvanian, Polish, Chinese, Mexican, Spanish and local cuisine, certainly tickled my taste buds. Happy in the knowledge that this is one of the biggest foodie fairs to be staged in Jersey, I quickly realised that I wasn’t the only one experiencing it for the first time!
So will I be going again? The Battle of the Flowers, an event intent on keeping Jersey’s tradition alive, and one that definitely has me sold. I’ll just know next time not to drive in!