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Teri Bowles-Atherton grew up lending a hand to annual event, helping decorate floats with her uncle Jimmy 'Bang Bang' Walker

COURTESY PHOTO - BOWLES-ATHERTONWay back when, "it was always a big deal for my family," Teri Bowles-Atherton says about the Portland Rose Festival.

Bowles-Atherton, the newly elected president of the Rose Festival Foundation, remembers attending Portland's annual party, Rose Festival Court doings (with two cousins who were princesses) and parade, and working with her uncle and other family members and volunteers on decorating floats with flowers.

Her uncle, Jimmy "Bang-Bang" Walker, a prizefighter and founder of The Clarion Defender newspaper and Jefferson High School supporter, entered the first African-American/Albina float in the Grand Floral Parade in 1968.

"All hands on deck," she recalls. "I remember that fondly, putting flowers on and sprinkling seeds in a pattern. We had really good times.

"You know something exciting is going on, and seeing the final product as a child, it's 'I helped do that.' A sense of pride."

So it feels really exciting for Bowles-Atherton, a longtime Rose Festival Foundation board member, to become president of the foundation.

Bowles-Atherton, who'll soon turn 43, grew up in the Alameda neighborhood and is a St. Mary's Academy and Vanderbilt University graduate. She returned to Portland from Nashville in the early 2000s and volunteered with the Rose Festival.

She volunteered in 2008 as wardrobe coordinator and chaperone for the court and "then in 2009 I was asked to join the board of the Rose Festival Foundation. I've been a part of the board the whole time."

As president, she'll head the board of directors and will work with Marilyn Clint, chief operating officer, and Jeff Curtis, chief executive officer, to establish strategic goals and work on events.

Bowles-Atherton appreciates how the Rose Festival has continued to become diverse, as best exemplified by its Princess Court.

"Because Rose Festival is such a community organization, every pocket of Portland feels a connection to the Rose Festival," she adds. The African-American community feels a connection because of the court's diversity, and "I love the way the diversity is reflecting the diversity of the Portland area, both the people who've historically lived here and the people moving to the area."

Bowles-Atherton admits that the Rose Festival is "always looking at ways to make it new and exciting." The core activities of the parades, court, CityFair and RoZone concerts are constants but "we do have some changes on the horizon."

She and Rose Festival officials continue to emphasize that it's a city celebration, but it's also appealing to suburbanites and people from outside the metropolitan area. Entries in the Starlight Parade and Grand Floral Parade often reflect that.

Bowles-Atherton, who currently serves as director of physician development at Providence Medical Group, is thrilled to be leading the Rose Festival Foundation, especially given her family history with the festival.

"I'm really appreciative and humbled by the amount of confidence other board members have in voting me into this positon," says Bowles-Atherton, who's married (to Jermaine) with a daughter (Jaiden).


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