City's annual party goes back to its roots with queen's centennial celebration

by: PHOTOS COURTESY OF ROSE FESTIVAL ASSOCIATION - The Queens Coronation and staging for the Grand Florale Parade at Veterans Memorial Coliseum are exciting times during Rose Festival.This year’s Rose Festival theme, Making Memories, is an homage to the past, but with a modern feel. The festival begins in earnest with the opening of CityFair at Waterfront Park and fireworks above the city on Friday, May 23.

The annual event will emphasize social media — yes, you’ll be able to post your selfie on the all-encompassing website,

And, 100 years after the crowning of Thelma Hollingsworth, the first Rose Festival queen, a contest has been held to name a young woman to play the role of Hollingsworth in the festival, including the Grand Floral Parade on June 7.

“Our audience wants to know our roots, and so do we. The fact that we’ve been here 107 years, we like to connect with those roots,” says Marilyn Clint, Rose Festival chief operating officer, of the Making Memories theme. “It’s also very contemporary because it’s about what people share on social media.”

Portland’s party, which already has started in many respects, including with last weekend’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon, gets rolling this weekend and continues through June.

• Key Rose Festival events (see for complete information):

Opening night fireworks

It starts at 9:45 p.m. Friday, May 23 at Waterfront Park, and includes a RoZone concert with Hit Machine.

CityFair opens and fireworks light up the Portland sky as Rose Festival opens in earnest on Friday, May 23. All info can be found at


It’s three weekends of fun at Waterfront Park: 5-11 p.m. Friday, May 23; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday-Monday, May 24-26 (including RoZone concerts with Vintage Trouble on May 24, and Capital Cities on May 25); 3-11 p.m. Thursday-Friday, May 29-30; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, May 31-June 1 (with CountryFest, including Clay Walker, on the RoZone stage, June 1); 3 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Friday, June 5-6, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, June 7-8 (with Fresh Faces Concert, including Heffron Drive, at RoZone, June 7)

There’ll be a bigger museum display of the Rose Festival’s 107-year history at CityFair.

Starlight Parade

The Starlight Run is held before the annual parade. The run is at 7:45 p.m. May 31, in downtown Portland; the parade starts at 8:30 p.m.

Fleet Week

The U.S. Navy warships return after a one-year hiatus, joining Coast Guard and Royal Canadian ships, Wednesday, June 4, through Sunday, June 8, on the Willamette River waterfront.

“There was a big word we had to learn last year,” Clint says. “Sequestration.”

The federal budget crunch prevented U.S. military ships from visiting Portland during “Fleet Week,” and it was quite the downer. But, budget restraints have been lifted, and U.S. Navy warships, Coast Guard ships and the Royal Canadian “Oriole” will cruise up the Columbia and Willamette rivers — about nine vessels in all — and dock on the Portland waterfront June 4 and 5.

“It’s more than a patriotic thing, it’s the ambience, and there’s something romantic about the big ships being in town,” Clint says. “Because we’re one of the only ports of call so far away from the ocean that does a big fleet week, it makes it even more special. I have to admit, I personally hadn’t anticipated how much they’d be missed, and they were.”

Junior Parade

It starts at 1 p.m. June 4, at Northeast 52nd Avenue and Sandy Boulevard in the Hollywood District.

Spring Rose Show

The 126th annual Portland Rose Society event goes from 1 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 5, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, June 6, at the Lloyd Center.

Queen’s Coronation

Court members anxiously await the big announcement, 8:30 a.m. Saturday, June 7, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Grand Floral Parade

The Rose Festival Queen highlights the parade, which starts at 10 a.m. June 7, at the coliseum and rolls through downtown.

Returning this year to the Grand Floral Parade: Budweiser Clydesdales. “The attraction of those horses pulling that big wagon ... such an American icon. Our crowd loves them,” says Jeff Curtis, Rose Festival chief executive officer. “It’s been gone for four years.”

Dragon Boat Race

Crews chug to the finish line on the Willamette River, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 7 and 8.

Grand Floral Float Showcase

See the floats up close, 3 to 10 p.m. June 7, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 8 near CityFair.

Rose Cup Races

Drivers test their mettle at Portland International Raceway, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday, June 13 to 15.

by: COURTESY OF ROSE FESTIVAL ASSOCIATION - Three young women are vying to portray the first Rose Festival Queen, Thelma Hollingsworth in 1914.• The Rose Festival Court, chosen through high school elections, began in 1930. But 16 years before, there were 12 young women on the court, and they literally bought votes through the collection of pennies. In 1914, Thelma Hollingsworth became the first of 100 Rose Festival queens by collecting 2 million votes — 10 votes for every penny collected.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Rose Festival queen, there has been a contest to

determine who will portray

Hollingsworth in the festival. It’s down to three teenagers, Marisa Pieper (Wilsonville High School), Shelby Hansmann (David Douglas High School), and Adeena Wade (Clark College), who are collecting pennies to decide who will play Hollingsworth this year.

“Up until (1914) we had a king,” Clint says, of the Rose Festival. “They asked local organizations and businesses to nominate young women to represent them. Thelma was a 17-year-old girl, the head file clerk at Oregon Washington Railroad and Navigation Co., and she had been working for three years.”

• The Rose Festival launched a new website and plans social media pages for postings, including using Twitter.

“We’ll have a selfie contest,” Clint says, “and we’re going to put down a background at CityFair where people can take selfies and photos and share them on social media.”

She says the Rose Festival’s Facebook page has about 30,000 likes.

“We’re the Rose Festival, and people expect us to be engaged in the community,” she says. “The social media thing is really important to us.”

• The Rose Festival has always supported charities, but adopting an official charity became part of its mission in 2014. So it joined the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Research Challenge, hoping to make a dent in the $500 million to be raised to kick in Phil and Penny Knight’s $500 million matching offer.

Dr. Brian Druker, institute director, will be in the Grand Floral Parade, where spectators will be asked to donate. Druker appeared as grand marshal of the parade in 2002.

“All the stars are aligned, and it’s one of the biggest initiatives in history,” Clint says. “Why would we not be part of it? We’ve already raised through our partners and wonderful sponsors more than $100,000.”

Adds Curtis: “And, three jars of pennies.”

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