The third grade students in Peggy Garcia's class at Winterhaven Elementary School looked surprised to see two prominent characters for Portland's past walk into their classroom.
It was as if a history book came to life when Georgiana Pittock and Dr. Harry Lane strode in among the students, and stopped at a table set at the front of the room.
Angel Ocasio, Special Projects Manager for the Portland Rose Festival Foundation, began the organization's Living History Program in this Brooklyn neighborhood appearance, saying, 'I know you've been studying about Portland history, and I brought two wonderful people with me. These are the people who made the Portland Rose Festival what it is today.'
The life and times of Mrs. Pittock
Dressed in her turn-of-the-twentieth-century clothing, Georgiana Pittock told the students how her family moved from Iowa to Portland.
She detailed her family's arduous trip on the Oregon Trail. The youngsters sat in rapt attention, as she told about the time she rode away from the wagon train, and was captured by a Native American tribe; and how she was returned to her family, unharmed, three days later.
As part of her presentation, Pittock showed the students examples of items they took with them on the trip, including preserves, seeds, and her dolly.
Later, as an adult, Pittock was credited with starting the Portland Rose Society. This is the philanthropic group that still promotes the cultivation of roses throughout Portland.
Father of the Rose Festival
Dr. Harry Lane, dressed as he would have been when he served as Mayor of Portland from 1905 to 1909, then told the students about his youth.
Like Mrs. Pittock, Lane's family moved to Portland when he was a boy.
Lane related how he became interested in studying medicine and becoming a physician. After starting his practice in New York, he returned to Oregon to run the state hospital, where he became known as a reformer.
This, he said, led to his being drafted into running for the office of Mayor.
How the Rose Festival began
'1905, the Lewis and Clark Exposition was set up here, like a World's Fair,' Lane recounted. 'More than 1.5 million visitors came to Portland over a five-month period.'
At the end of the festival, Lane said the exposition's trustees decided to gain publicity for Portland by calling it the 'the Rose Capital of the World'. The plan began to gain traction: 'We could invite people to come here in June of each year, and celebrate our roses. We could get them to forget about Los Angeles and Seattle, and come here to vacation!'
Lane worked with Mrs. Pittock and volunteers from the Portland Rose Society, and the Portland Rose Festival was launched in 1907.
An award-winning presentation
After the presentation, Ocasio told us the Living History Program experienced by the Winterhaven School students was the idea of Marilyn Clint, the Associate Executive Director of the Portland Rose Festival. 'Last year, to celebrate the festival's centennial year, they thought it would be great to bring back some of the historical characters.'
At the end of their season last year, the International Festivals and Events Association recognized the Rose Festival Living History Program as both one of the best educational programs and also one of the best community outreach programs in the world.
The central events of the Portland Rose Festival run from May 29 through June 8. For more information, visit online: www.rosefestival.org.