Portland, Oregon Rose Festival
by Rob Levy
The end of May can only mean one thing in the City of Portland: The Rose Festival. Since its beginning in 1907, The Rose Festival has grown to become one of the largest spectator attractions in North America. The Festival is a three-week extravaganza that brings visitors from all over the globe to behold Portland’s finest hour. Parades, clowns, live music, and of course roses, endear the Rose City to the hearts of many as one of the world’s foremost special events.
Originally proposed by Mayor Harry Lane in 1905, the Rose Festival has been a major draw to the Portland area for over one hundred years. Never has this been truer than in 2007, when the Rose Festival’s centennial celebration earned the distinction of Best Festival in The World from the International Festivals and Events Association.
The centerpiece of the Rose Festival is undoubtedly the Grand Floral Parade. This all-floral parade is the second largest in North America. The Grand Floral Parade draws more than 500,000 spectators who line the parade route, making it the largest spectator event in the entire state of Oregon. Though the Grand Floral Parade is the most famous parade showcased at the Rose Festival, it is actually one of three!
The Junior Parade is one of the oldest and most favored traditions of festival-goers of all ages. A staple of the Rose Festival since its inception, the Junior Parade features bands, school groups, scout troops, children's organizations, youth clubs, dance teams and families all joining in on the fun. For many years, the parade featured members of the Junior Court. Today however, children dress in costume, build colorful floats towed on wagons, or ride on bikes decorated with flowers, crepe paper, streamers and balloons.
The Starlight Parade is another storied favorite. Originally called the “Electric Parade,” the Starlight Parade is now an evening of fun and adventure focused around illuminated entries of all forms. From flood-lit floats, to glow in the dark umbrellas, to full marching bands, the Starlight Parade is a perfect example of the Rose city’s unique culture and diverse community.
The Rose Festival has far more to offer than merely parades. The Dragon Boat Races attract over 80 competing teams and thousands of fans. For the exercise enthusiast, the Starlight Run is Portland’s largest 5k fun run, with more than 3,000 runners toeing the starting line annually. The Rose Festival Clown Corps also entertains crowds throughout the festival. For motorsports fans, the Rose Cup Race is the oldest amateur road race west of the Mississippi River, welcoming more than 400 amateur drivers all vying for the coveted Rose Cup.
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