There is nothing quite like the pomp and pageantry of a big parade in a small town.
But every year on the weekend between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, the parade is just the capstone to four days full of flowers, civic pride, and all the fun that comes with a longstanding (112 years!) festival.
The good, old-fashioned fun includes the coronation of a festival queen and king, a four-day carnival, motorcycles, classic cars and a Saturday night cruise, a 5K walk/run, a street fair, a flower show and sale, an art show and sale, food, drink, live music, a junior parade; oh, and did we mention…a three-mile grand floral parade?
This year marks the 112th renewing of the annual Florence Rhododendron Festival in Florence, Oregon, from May 17 to 19, 2019. “Rhody Fest” is Oregon’s second-longest running floral festival, just a year younger than Portland’s Rose Festival.
And the parade’s grand marshal? A lighthouse! Why? Because the iconic Heceta Head lighthouse, considered one of the most photographed in the country, is celebrating its 125th anniversary.
The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce’s staff of two, along with about a million (OK…a couple of dozen) volunteers hosts the big event.
Historic Old Town Florence and the beautiful Florence Events Center (FEC) will be the main hubs of activity…and they are within walking distance of each other and of our inn! In fact we’re just steps from the middle of Old Town, and less than a mile from the FEC. There will be lots of events all over town too.
The festival officially gets underway with the coronation of Queen Rhododendra and the King of the Coast on Wednesday night, May 15, at the FEC. Members of the court have been selling festival pins for $3 to raise money for scholarships. The pins are also good for $1 off a bowl of chowder throughout May at participating restaurants around town—several of which are within a few blocks of the inn.
The Davis Shows’ Carnival, opens Thursday, May 15, at 3:00 p.m. at the Port of Siuslaw parking lot, just a couple of blocks away from our front door. Even closer is the street fair with more than 30 vendors and exhibitors. The street fair will be going Friday 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
There is something for everyone on Saturday. The 40th annual 5K Rhody Run & Walk starts Saturday at 9:00 a.m. at the FEC; the Junior Parade is Saturday at noon on Oak St. where all the schools are. At the end of the parade, at 27th and Oak Streets, will be lots of games with prizes.
But this is THE Rhododendron Festival. What about the famous flowers? You can see the best of the best during the American Rhododendron Society’s rhododendron and azalea show (and plant sale) at the Florence Events Center on Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Also at the FEC will be the annual Florence Regional Arts Alliance arts festival from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday.
The Rhody Cruisers’ Classic Car Show’s annual show-n-shine takes place Saturday and Sunday at 21st St. and Highway 101 in the City Lights Cinema and Grocery Outlet parking lot. The annual Coast Radio KCST/KCFM classic car cruise is Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. around and through Old Town.
What about that live music? The Do-Wah Riders, the nationally-touring high energy country band with a Cajun twist perform at 4:00 p.m. Saturday at the park behind Ixtapa Restaurant at 10th and Highway 101. They’ll also perform at the KCST cruise and the parade. The multi-award-winning “ultimate Elvis,” Justin Shandor, performs Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the FEC.
For more information on the 2019 Rhododendron Festival contact the Chamber at events@FlorenceChamber.com or 541-997-3128.
Generally, we would encourage you to book a room for all the festivities, but we’ve been sold out for the weekend for nearly a year. But come anyway, even if for a day. There is nothing quite like the Florence Rhododendron Festival—after all, its been happening for 112 years!
Photos courtesy of The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce.
Coronation photo courtesy of The Siuslaw News.
Rhododendron photo courtesy of Travel Lane County.