This wonderful flower-laden event has its roots in the early part of the 20th century. The Festa delle Camelie (Camellia Festival) was first held in Locarno in 1923. An event held in honour of this fascinating plant that included concerts, talks and fireworks. In record years visitor numbers swelled to 25,000. In 1924, the organisers sent out a call to the locals to help accommodate the visitors. Every household was required to make at least one bed available. They could charge CHF 4 per bed per night. The event was held under the name Festa delle Camelie until 1940 (with breaks).
After a pause of 12 years, the city relaunched the event. A new name appeared in 1952: Festa dei Fiori (Flower Festival). The event lasted three days and nights and involved demonstrations of folk dancing in the traditional costumes of the neighbouring valleys, displays of 12,000-plus flowers – and visitors numbering 15,000. It all culminated in a parade on the Sunday. Large effusively decorated carts passed through the Piazza Grande and majorettes showed off their marching skills to the beat of marching music. The Flower Festival in that particular form last took place in 1984.
This year is witnessing the 21st edition of the Camelie Locarno exhibition. The focus of attention during the five-day event is Locarno’s Camellia Park (in which these gorgeous blooms can be admired all year round) and the courtyard of the Palazzo of the Società Elettrica Sopracenerina near the Piazza Grande. Camelie Locarno, which attracts some 6,000 visitors annually, is taking place 27-31 March this year.