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Photos: Ferrara Palio Ancient Flags Competition

Mamma Mia!

This outburst came from the San Luca supporter sporting a green and red scarf standing beside me as he watch the team from San Giacomo throw their flags 20 feet in the air and flawless catch and move in a complex dance.

He – and everyone in the San Luca section knew their contrade had just lost the ancient flag throwing competition of Ferrara’s Palio.

The San Giacomo team knew they had rocked it and jumped and did the equivalent of the superbowl football spike on the way out of the Piazza.  The judges frowned … they had already chastised a contrada cheering section for being too contentious in cheering on their house.

The Ferrara Palio Ancient Flag Competition brought hundreds of young people together in their colorful medieval costumes to play music and compete – like they done for hundreds of years.

I ended up standing among the red and green clad San Luca Contrada.  They were gracious enough to tolerate the outsider, though I made sure to clap extra loud for their teams.  All eight contrada’s organized themselves into sections surrounding the piazza and cheered on their neighborhood and hung colorful banners and wore the colors of their house.

And the competition is fierce.  When a flag is dropped the whole crowd gasps.  When a team does well, or when they falter, everyone cheers to acknowledge their good job or to support them for trying.  And when a contrada’s team enters the piazza to perform, their friends and neighbors cheer loudly and support their team.

(The previous post “Serendipity” explains the Palio).  Here are some photos from that night … I have a new appreciate for sports photographers after trying to get some good photos at night, with fast movement while dodging the big hair of the woman in front of me.

Leigh Pate
Leigh Pate is a writer, former political consultant and two time cancer patient and cancer research advocate living in Seattle, WA