Reina de Cafe Pageant
A highlight of the Feria held every year, is the annual International Reina De Cafe Beauty Pageant (Miss Coffee Beauty Pageant, due to Manizales being in the coffee growing region of Colombia) held during the Feria. It is basically your typical beauty pageant 'we want world peace and we'll acheive it by prancing around in our bikinis in front of a bunch of horney dudes' type thing. That being said, I didn't see the bikini day.
Anyways, I was surprised at the amount of different contestants they had, mostly all from South and Central America, the only two exceptions being Miss Spain and Miss Canada. There were probably about 15 or so of them.
On the opening night, they had a parade in which all the Miss' came around through town and ended up on a stage in Plaza Bolivar where they were introduced to the people and all said a little something. Miss Brasil spoke good Spanish, but Miss Canada was an embarasment, frankly. After the introduction, I went behind the stage to try to get a picture of me with Miss Canada (cuz I am from Canada after all!), but here police escort guy didn't stop, though most of the others all did pose for pictures. Miss Colombia obviously being very popular.
A few days later I saw them again in a parade, then I left town. I don't know who won the pageant.
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La Feria de Manizales
The Feria de Manizales, or Fair of Manizales, has been held every year (except 1980, due to an earthquake) since it's inception in 1954. It takes place from the beggining of January (2007 started on the 5th, though I don't know if that is the same day every year), and lasts for two weeks.
During the festival the streets are packed with revellers having good times, especially Plaza Bolivar, Parque Caldas and Carrera 23 between the two. There are plenty of street performances and hotdog vendors and all that festival type stuff, including 1L of Poker beer for 5,000pesos. During the festival there are parades almost everyday, and constant shows and concerts and other events held around town, especially in Plaza Bolivar and the theatre near Parque Caldas. You can never go bored.
Manizales is in the Paisa Region of Colombia, and the people from here are called Paisas. Due to this, the Feria is very Paisa oriented, and people walk around in the streets selling Paisa hats and ponchos and the likes. You will see lots of people dressed like this.
The opening night was a riot. They had a parade, introduction of the Reina de Cafe beauty pagent contestants, fireworks, and a concert held in Plaza Bolivar. The whole square turned into one giant dance floor! It was great! And this goes on for 2 weeks!
On the other hand, due to many tourists (99% of whom are Colombian, as I didn't see a single other foreigner other than my travel partner at the time) comming into town, most of the hotels get booked up, and they also increase their prices substancially. Once place we tried said the first night we could have the room for 20,000pesos for double room, but the following night (the day the Fair started) the price would rise to 60,000pesos!!! Also security becomes super strict, and all the streets around Plaza Bolivar and other gathering places are blocked off and you have to go through 2 seperate checks to get in. They confiscated my belt and almost didn't let me bring my camera in!!!
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