It's back, and it's time to have fun!
Portland's party just wasn't the same the past couple years, as the Rose Festival dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions along with everybody else in the world — no CityFair carnival, no concerts, no street parades, no Fleet Week, not many in-person events, a different Queen's Coronation and a whole lot of improvising.
Before anybody takes the wonderful Rose Festival for granted, read Chief Operating Officer Marilyn Clint's assessment of the Rose Festival 2020 and 2021:
"We did everything we could to stay in business," she said.
But it's 2022, the pandemic has subsided, and people have adjusted to living with the coronavirus in society, and it's full steam ahead for the Rose Festival with the very fitting theme of "Rose City Reunion." People are encouraged to get out and enjoy all the Rose Festival attractions and events in their splendor, beginning with the Rose City Reunion Concert with the Oregon Symphony on Thursday, May 26 (at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall) and the opening of CityFair with fireworks at Waterfront Park on Friday, May 27.
The CareOregon Starlight Parade takes place Saturday, June 4, followed by the Fred Meyer Junior Parade on Wednesday, June 8 and the Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade — which takes a new eastside route —on Saturday, June 11.
After two years of ceremonies outdoors at the Washington Park Rose Garden, the Queen's Coronation will be under the late spring sun (hopefully!) Friday, June 10 at Peninsula Park, and the new queen will ride with her court on one of five floats in the Grand Floral Parade's "Royal Reunion" segment. There will also be a float for 2021 Queen Lili Rosebrook and court, one for 2020 Queen Anya Anand and court and one for the 100th anniversary of the Queen's Crown. The 1972 court will ride on the 50-year float. And 2019 Queen Mya Brazile, plus scores of past princesses, are expected to march in the parade.
Concerts at Waterfront Park many nights, Fleet Week starting June 8, 132nd Rose Show on June 9-10, Dragon Boat Races on June 11, a new Rose Festival-associated NASCAR race at Portland International Raceway June 3-4 … it's a lineup of great things for the Rose Festival, as people have been gearing up for its return.
"It feels wonderful, it feels amazing," Clint said. "It feels great to be together again and talk about positive things together. We haven't done it for two years.
"I imagine it's going to be super popular. Other festivals happening around the country are seeing the same thing."
The past two festivals had to be canceled, but organizers worked to keep things going. The Porch Parade, in which residents and businesses decorated their porches with Rose Festival-themed displays for pedestrians and carloads of people to see, proved to be popular. A virtual Fleet Week replaced real ships docked on the Willamette River waterfront. The Rose Festival Court continued through mostly online announcements, and Anand and Rosebrook reigned as Queen of Rosaria — even without being feted in parades.
The festival also returns amid ongoing issues of homelessness and social unrest affecting the city, downtown businesses and enjoyment for people who want to go out and about. The Rose Festival folks, like many others, want to help change the feeling in the city.
"It does feel like things are coming back to normal for everybody," said Dave Todd, Rose Festival Foundation president. "We have parades on the eastside and westside and events all around town. That will hopefully attract people. We're hoping the whole approach starts to help make the city feel at least a little bit normal."
"I'm just excited with how the whole thing has together. I was definitely proud of what we were able to do in past two years," said Clint.
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