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She had been chief operating officer for many years, and assumes position vacated by Jeff Curtis.

COURTESY PHOTO: ROSE FESTIVAL - Marilyn Clint has moved from chief operating officer to chief executive officer of the Rose Festival.The roots of Marilyn Clint's lifelong love for the Rose Festival grew even before she watched her first parade.

Actually, Clint was born into adoration for the Rose Festival. Her mother moved to Portland from Minnesota, and "like so many transplants, she grabbed ahold of the Rose Festival as something that she could love, to help make Portland her hometown. She embraced it wholeheartedly. Even before I was born my older sister was a junior princess."

Then, another twist of fate happened to Clint in high school, further solidifying that she would be part of Rose Festival forever. Clint wanted to be Roosevelt High School princess for the Rose Festival Court, but didn't make the cut to be a finalist. Broke her heart at the time, "but I always say it was meant to be that I not become a princess." Back then, the Rose Festival didn't hire princesses to be interns or even employees, "at least that was my perception."

Clint would start as a receptionist with the Rose Festival soon after high school graduation in 1974, and … the rest is history.

After helping build the Starlight Parade, being anointed Parade Queen and working in various capacities, including the past several years as chief operating officer alongside CEO Jeff Curtis, Clint has ascended to the top role.

She replaces Curtis as chief executive officer, despite being plenty happy in her position as chief operating officer. Curtis kept encouraging Clint to take the CEO position, and she agreed. She takes over upon Curtis' departure Sept. 23. Curtis moves on to pursue other career opportunities.

What a story: A Rose Festival fan since before birth, a native Portlander now settles in as the CEO of Portland's 133-year-old community party. Clint has been loyal, an ardent historian of the Rose Festival and perhaps its most enthusiastic leader. It's not been her job, it's been her passion to be an advocate for the Rose Festival.

The first person to send congratulations to Clint was the man who hired her as a seasonal staff person, former executive director Clayton Hannon. In her 45 years of working for the Rose Festival, on and off, Clint worked for directors Hannon, Dick Clark and Curtis. She had been working closely with Curtis since 2000.

"This is certainly not a position I ever sought. In fact, I was offered the position and turned it down," Clint said, of CEO. "Because I love my job as events director and communications director and Parade Queen (by 2015 proclamation from then-Mayor Charlie Hales), it's a great gig." One of her main responsibilities is managing the Grand Floral Parade.

Curtis and Clint talked about the transition back in March, before Curtis made it known publicly he would be moving on. Curtis asked Clint to pursue the CEO position. Her response: "Hmm, really, I don't know about that."

Curtis would't give up, and "he was highly influential with the board about it," Clint added.

"I appreciate that from him. It's the right thing for the Rose Festival. That's why I'm doing it, that's why I took the job. It will serve everybody very well. I'm surrounded by fantastic people. We have a large board of directors, and good leadership and executive team and a small but mighty Rose Festival staff. They have been the biggest supporters, saying continually, 'You gotta do this, and they gotta choose you.'"

She did, and they did. Clint promises to be a different CEO than Curtis, and be actively involved in events and communications, and hiring a COO may or may not happen.

Said Curtis: "Marilyn is the ideal successor. Her passion, vision and leadership capability will combine with a unique skillset formed over four decades of hands-on special events work. I am thrilled the board selected her as Rose Festival's CEO, and I take great comfort in knowing Rose Festival is in such capable hands."

Clint, 67, lives in Kenton with her sister Charlie, a well-known Rose Festival volunteer, and her two cats, Jonnie and Janie. When she takes time away from Rose Festival, she and Charlie love taking road trips around the Pacific Northwest, playing ukulele and listening to music — especially the Beatles.

She attended Roosevelt High and then Portland State University, and later received a Certified Festival and Event Executive certification from Purdue University in Indiana. Clint describes herself as a "hard-worker."

She has been known for her creativity and innovative programming, building programs such as the Rose Festival's Cleanest & Greenest Festival parade cleanups, Living History Program and the Rose Festival Clowns. Clint is executive producer of the annual Grand Floral Parade telecast and was the architect of the festival's Centennial Celebration in 2007.

Interestingly, it was after the Centennial — the highlight of her career — that Clint wasn't sure she would continue with the Rose Festival.

"After that Centennial, it was, 'What am I going to do next?'" Clint said. "The Rose Festival ran out of money. It was the challenge of keeping it around that kept me motivated.

"We had two rough years. It was, 'One of us has to go,' (meaning she or Curtis). Jeff and I formed a strong partnership, and we absolutely talked about it. Jeff walked out to his car with my sister and said, 'Marilyn has to stay.' But, the board of directors said they needed both of us, 'We have faith. We'll get through it.' And we did get through it."

There was similar trepidation in spring 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions shut most everything down. The Rose Festival had to trim its staff and workdays, and apply for Paycheck Protection Program assistance and both Shuttered Venue Operators and Oregon Cultural Trust grants, and survived. "I said to the staff, 'I was born to do this, this is why I'm still here, we'll get through it,'" Clint said.

The Rose Festival returned in 2022 after a two-year in-person absence.

"The Rose Festival, from a financial standpoint, is stronger now than pre-pandemic. So many sponsors continued to support us … and every single government program we applied for. We did what we had to do," she added.

Clint considers the Rose Festival "so yesterday" in a positive sense, because "yesterday sounds pretty darn good."

Especially after the pandemic, people look for stability. Clint uses her mother as an example, because her mother gravitated to the Rose Festival as "something to call her own."

There are gatherings, parades, carnival and more in the Rose Festival. It's a community party. It's a tradition and coming together, not unlike the Brits and how they celebrate with pomp and ceremony, highlighted recently with Queen Elizabeth II's passing

Said Clint, of the Rose Festival: "It has stayed relevant. We change enough but we stay the same. … It's the coming together. I get all esoteric, about those defining things about our civilization, traditions and rituals that make us a community or civilization. You can call it corny or whatever. … We're part of that tradition."


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