Rose Festival

When is a parade not a parade?

I had a quandary. Every year in the first part of June, Portland has a Rose Festival. It’s a series of events dreamed up by the city fathers over 100 years ago to help put Portland on the map of places to go in the summer. But the big poobah of the event calendar is the Grand Floral Parade, and despite its blog potential I would not be around  for it – I’d be scuba diving 180 miles away. What to do?

There was an alternative of sorts. Although I’d still miss out on the marching bands, the rodeo princesses, the lovely ladies practicing their parade waves from the floats, and all the other hoopla that comes while a parade is parading, I could still see the floats. The day after the parade they were still parked downtown for close up viewing.Kayaker

So my wife and I set off on our own little parade, walking from the other side of the Willamette River into the Waterfront Park area to see the sights.

We started off by hitting Saturday market, an outdoor arts and crafts market open March thru December. I’ll be honest; I hadn’t checked it out for years – it’s more a place I take out-of-town visitors to see than a place I frequent. We should do it more often, we even have a friend with a booth (handcrafted notebooks with custom covers and bindings.)  If nothing else, it might be worth it just to order an elephant ear, a delectable pastry we’ll get with sugar and cinnamon. But if you’re a tourist, Voodoo Donuts is just around the corner.

After a search we found the floats. No lovelies waving or marching bands playing in the background, but impressive just the same.

The main floats in the parade are quite intricate. Every surface is covered by some sort of organic matter: flowers, seeds, various plants, things I have no clue of. On one, sponsored by a grocery chain, I even saw a panel of small potatoes, set into who knows what, but looking like cobblestones set into a street.
JagWe continued our stroll down Waterfront Park, coming to the Salmon Street fountain. FountainOn a nice summer day it’s popular with the kids. Thoughtful parents will have brought a change of clothes for the kids, or face soggy car seats.

There are other events going on as well. For the last 26 years we’ve had dragon boat races.DragonDragon boat racing is a tradition out of China. The boats are big and heavy and take a crew of 22; 20 paddlers, 1 to steer, and one to call the cadence. For the Portland races, a heat runs about 3 minutes.

What’s a festival without a midway?

Less expensive?

You’d think an adventurous guy like me would be all over some of those crazy carnival rides, but, no. Guess I must have been scarred in my youth, riding the tilt-o-whirl and feeling nauseous afterwards. That’s fun? Besides, after facing off with a pair of 6-foot wolf eels curled up in a den 65 feet deep the day before, who needs more?Kamakazi


Lots of folks come to visit come Rose Festival time, including sailors. Although Portland is a fair distance inland, we have access to the Pacific ocean via the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. We get visitors from the US Navy, the Coast Guard, and the Canadian Navy.

Old joke: how do you know it’s time for Rose Festival?  It’s when the seamen come upstream to spawn.Navy

What else goes on in the Rose Festival? Lots. Especially if you consider some of the things that get deferred until later in the summer.  Here are a few of the additional events:

  • The Starlight Parade – a week before the Grand Floral, this one’s smaller scale and includes lighted floats going into the evening hours.
  • The Junior Parade – for the younger kids
  • A selection of festival princesses and a queen from local high schools
  • Runs and walks
  • An Indy car race
  • A milk carton boat race
  • A golf tournament
  • A rose show/competition
  •  See the Rose Festival site for more details

Sometimes we take hometown attractions for granted. After you’ve done them a few times they lose their luster. That doesn’t mean they stop being cool, and in my stroll with my wife we rediscovered the pleasures of the Rose Festival.


22 thoughts on “Rose Festival

    1. It was a pleasant little outing. Because it was a nice day we extended our walk beyond downtown and got 5 miles in. The only downer was getting stuck for 30 minutes waiting for a pedestrian bridge lift.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. pinklightsabre

    Ah, Portland — see, I like it because I can be a tourist there. I like driving down to that market on an early Saturday morning, finding a good place to park (scoffing at all the cyclists) and strolling with my family. In fact, you’ve given me an idea now for a destination this summer, thanks Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre

        Makes a difference because I think there’s the attitude “it’s always there, I could go whenever” so we don’t feel the urgency to. I met many Scots like that in Scotland; it seemed we were seeing more of their country than lots of them had.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I may have to break down and actually attend the Grand Floral Parade again one of these years – usually we just veg out and watch it on the tube, neither of us is big on crowds. It’s still better in person.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a lot of fun (great pictures). Hope to visit the US one day and Portland is definitely on our list. I know what you mean about taking home town things for granted. Me and Ann often did stuff in London that might have seemed ‘touristy’ to some Londoners. But screw that, make the most of your town I say.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A parade is not a parade when a tire on one of these baddies blows out and everything comes screeching to a halt. The pretend whitewater boat (the very first picture) is super-neat.

    Parades aren’t at the top of my list of things to do but all the same, personally I think they’re pretty fun to watch- from small-town stuff to big city shebangs. I’m at a time in my life where it feels like a certain duty in the name of community tradition and culture to take my children to one or two a year. We have some interesting, off-beat celebrations in Seattle like the Fremont Solstice Parade. Opening day of boating season is another mandatory one for our family…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The floats are incredible. I like those animal heads on the header photo – what are those made of? I need these timely little reminders to get out and explore my (new) city like a tourist; I did at the beginning, but now I’m back to “just” living in it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There were more floats, I just posted my favorites. I’m not sure what they’re made of exactly. My wife and I sometimes say we should volunteer for float building one of these years to see how they do it, but we never seem to get around to it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a nice way to get a good, up-close look at a float, but it’s not the same as a real parade. And while the crowd isn’t 3-4 people deep there’s still plenty of people around.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  5. Pingback: In The Heart Of The Dragon – Plying Through Life

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