The event was so successful that organisers decided to repeat it the following year – and so began a summer tradition, which continues to this very day.
How the Battle of Flowers got its name
In those early days the floral floats were mostly horse-drawn and tradition at the time was for flowers and petals to be torn from the float and thrown to a lady in the crowd, in the hope that one would be thrown back!
War stops Battle
During the Battle’s history there have only been two periods of time when world events forced its cancellation:
World War I saw the parade abandoned and it wasn’t reinstated until 1926.
Similarly, during the Second World War and the Occupation of the Channel Islands, the Battle of Flowers parade was stopped.
In fact, during that period, all festivities were suspended.
There was then no Battle until the 1950s when a group of local businessmen decided that a revival of the Battle was much needed as a focus for the community, as well as an additional benefit for the Island’s emerging tourism industry.
Since then the Battle of Flowers event has continued uninterrupted and, although the ‘Battle’ aspect of the parade (by which flowers were thrown from the float) ceased in 1964, the name has stuck and has continued to flourish; the Jersey Battle of Flowers has welcomed over one million spectators over the years.
Over the years as the event grew so did the types of floats, which nowadays can be anything up to 45 foot in length, and horses replaced by hidden motorised machinery to carry the float around the arena.
Community and competition
The floats themselves are works of art with designs a closely guarded secret right up to the grand reveal on Battle day itself.
Islanders of all ages and from all backgrounds work tirelessly for months getting the floats ready; whether that be cutting fresh flowers (predominantly chrysanthemums, shipped in from the UK and Holland as well as locally-grown asters), or preparing dried flowers and hares tails (lagurus grass) to make intricate patterns and designs.
This workload increases in the weeks leading up to the parade with warehouses and sheds around the Island abuzz with battle fever throughout the day and long into the night; in particular the eve of Battle sees many of the exhibitors working against the clock to finish their masterpiece on time before the float makes its way in the early hours of the morning to the parade arena.
The day itself
And of course the reward for all this hard work is not only taking part in the parade itself in front of tens of thousands of spectators but for the awards (and, not to forget, keeping their reputations intact). There are numerous prizes awarded by an independent judging panel, including best set design, best costume, and animation. However, it is the major prize of Prix d’Honneur that everyone wishes to win.
In 1989, as a further way to enhance the carnival atmosphere, it was decided to introduce the Moonlight Parade.
Although the parade is very similar to the previous day’s event, this time the floats are illuminated by thousands of tiny lights, creating a truly magical spectacle and, some may argue, a more carnival feel, as the exhibitors have the chance to let their hair down and party well into the evening.
…But to get a true flavour of Battle we recommend you experience both parades!
Just to round things off, we have also recently introduced a festive Christmas Parade, a free event which has proven to be a very popular part of Jersey’s Fête dé Noué.
To describe the Jersey Battle of Flowers parades and its history in just a few short paragraphs doesn’t do the event justice; everyone who experiences Battle, whether that be as an exhibitor or spectator takes away something different every time. As the Island’s oldest event and one of its best loved, it looks likely to be going just as strong into the next century.
We invite you to come and judge the spectacle for yourself!