Christmas is approaching and so is La Feria, the biggest event of the year for many in Cali, both locals and foreigners alike.
Lots of Caleños have been saving money all year to spend during this five-day celebration, that takes place every year from December 25-30, and attracts more than 2.2 million people, of which 300.000 are estimated to be foreigners. The first event is the Salsodromo – a daylong salsa parade on the Autopista, featuring dancers from the best dance schools in town, live music and pimped-up semi trucks pulling massive trailers decorated for the occasion.
It all started back in 1957. The previous year, 1956, was a brutal year for Cali. A massive explosion left parts of the city in ruins, lives were lost and a recession followed. To combat the state of depression, elevate the spirits its inhabitants and stimulate the local economy, the city organized an event which has developed into today’s Feria. The salsa, which today is the main attraction of La Feria, did not gain popularity until the 1980s. Present day, La Feria de Cali has become a magnet for some of the biggest superstars in salsa and latin music in general. Marc Anthony, El Gran Combo, Willie Colón and Pitbull, among others, are all frequent visitors and performers in Cali during La Feria.
The official event schedule for La Feria is published on two different websites, here and here. The biggest events by far are the Salsodromo on the 25th and the SuperConcierto on the 26th in the Cali Stadium. All the parades on the Autopista are free to attend if you don’t care to sit on the tribunes.
Aside from all the main event, there are lots of little side events that can be just as much fun to check out. Las Tascas in the park in front of the Mayor’s office are open every day from December 18th and is a great place to go for a beer, some live music, to chat and flirt with the locals, and eat Caleño specialties.
Cali’s famous salsa circus, Delirio, does a show every day from December 26-30. Make sure to buy tickets in advance as they do sell out. If the $180.000 pesos for the Delirio show is out of your budget, then check out the Centro Cultural Jaracanda in Parque del Perro and their show, Danko, which runs from December 26-30 and features, among others, two tango world champions. Tickets cost $65.000.
Many local bars and clubs throw special events during La Feria. They know that competition is steep and the money flowing during those six days, so they all try hard to attract the crowds.
Also, although personally I’m no fan of it, La Plaza de Toros has bull fighting events every day during La Feria with famous matadors from coming from all over Latin America.
As you can see, La Feria de Cali offers plenty of stuff to keep even the most restless of souls occupied between Christmas and New Years. The vibe is good, energy levels high and people are smiling wherever you go. This an event not to be missed.
Wrapping up this post, you should know that, for Caleños, there’s one song that more than anything symbolizes La Feria. Local band, Grupo Niche’s Cali Pachanguero will be blasting from speakers all over the city. Put it on a repeat for 30 minutes. Slowly you’ll begin to feel you hips moving… I promise.
As always, be safe and have fun!