I’ve always said that the unofficial official kick off for summer in Portland, Oregon is the Rose Festival. This year’s event is fast approaching—May 25th through June 10th at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Downtown Portland.
Portland, Oregon, known as the City of Roses, has been celebrating its moniker for more than a century. The first annual Rose Festival was held in 1889 when local publisher’s wife, Mrs. Henry Pittock and her friends got together in the Pittock home’s own garden. Fast-forward to today and this small gathering dedicated to the city’s signature perennial has turned into a yearly month-long event.
I don’t know how they do it. The green thumbs I mean. One aspect of the festival, the rose show, is always gorgeous and fragrant and bursting with blooms. My guess is garden whisperers whisper sweet nothings to exhibitions containing more than four thousand kinds of flowers (roses, of course, dominate the display), with a focus on that year’s Official Rose and its fellow honorees.
The rose show isn’t the festival’s only draw. Not by a long shot. My favorite thing about the Rose Festival is the fair. Filled with rides and delicious food, friends and neighbors, exhibits and events, the Rose Festival fair is always a fun time to be had by all. As the festival progresses, various public events take place downtown on both sides of—and even in—the Willamette River. One such event, the Dragon Boat Race, features more than eighty local and international rowing teams piloting celebratory boats against each other in a frenzied-race down the river. It’s always an absolute blast to watch these boats dance up and down the mighty River. I love it.
But, the true highlight for me and for most, comes in about halfway through the festival, when the crowds gather in Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the commencement of the Grand Floral Parade. With a different theme each year, the Grand Floral Parade gathers exciting floats adorned in floral demonstrations and escorted by acapella groups, dance ensembles, and of course traditional marching bands. The Rose Festival Queen is coronated as the parade begins and she is then united with the Festival’s fun-loving mascot, the Clown Prince. You yourself can be a part of the parade. The Grand Floral Walk gathers revelers to shadow the same route as the downtown parade.
The Rose Festival is a can’t miss event that is a truly unique Portland event. If you haven’t been, make sure you don’t miss it this year!