TRAVEL THERE: GRAND FLORAL PARADE IN PORTLAND OR
Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. In June my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today’s focus is Portland‘s Grand Floral Parade.
When you travel there’s what you plan and there’s what just happens. In the just what happens category, there can be bad things like the weather that delayed my flight and made me lose a day of sightseeing – and there’s the good stuff. I’ve mentioned this vacation was originally planned for May, but several things moved it to June. During my original research, I heard about Portland’s Rose Festival, but since I wasn’t planning to be there in June, I just ignored it and promptly forgot all about it.
Then the hotel tucked a note under our door apologizing for any inconvenience the 100th Annual Grand Floral Parade might cause. The appropriate response to this news should have been a shout of joy, a few moments of jumping up and down hugging myself and then I should have turned to Bill and said, “Can you believe how lucky we are?”
Instead, the loss of a day of sightseeing and the stress of having over-planned the trip had turned me into someone my husband was having difficulty recognizing as his travel-loving wife. I think instead of “Can you believe how lucky we are,” I said something like, “You’re not interested in seeing this parade are you?” Thankfully, he was – and even more thankfully I tossed my itinerary out the window and said, “Fine, let me see if I can figure out where we should go to try and see it.”
Grand Floral Parade
So what is the Grand Floral Parade? Think Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day, but imagine that moments before the parade arrived at a spot just a block or two from your hotel, you strolled over and got a great curbside vantage point. Like the Rose Bowl Parade, the gorgeous floats in the Grand Floral Parade must be completely covered in organic materials. Unlike the Rose Bowl Parade, you don’t need a reservation months in advance.
I sort of assumed Pasadena was the mother of all parades and figured that if anybody else had a parade with flower covered floats, it must be a copy cat, but au contrare!
The History of the Parade
Remember Pittock Mansion. Well even before the mansion, the Pittocks were pretty important people, given that he ran the paper. Mrs. Pittock liked roses and decided to have a party where she and her friends could show off their blooms. The husbands didn’t like the idea of being left out of the fun, so they formed a group they called the Royal Rosarians. The seeds of the 100th annual Grand Floral Parade were planted. Pasadena’s parade has only been around since 1929. Imagine what the Grand Floral Parade would be if they’d hooked it up to a football bowl game!
Enjoying the Parade
So, after throwing away my itinerary and deciding to have a good time, I joined Bill for breakfast at Flying Elephant’s Deli next to Director’s Park. It’s not your everyday deli, so you should certainly plan to have a meal there. Then we strolled over to Pioneer Courthouse Square, because it was getting near parade time and it would be passing right by the plaza, which was on my list of must-see sights. Since it was the week of the Rose Festival, the center of the square was filled with potted plants. Here’a few shots of the photos we took while we waited.
I’m sure there are people somewhere that can tell you how long a parade will take to get from here to there, but no one we talked to did a very good job of guesstimating when the parade would get to us, so after we’d taken our quota of Pioneer Courthouse Square shots, we started to make our way backwards along the parade route.
Don’t think that because the crowds are smaller for the Portland parade that there are no crowds, because that would be wrong. Portland is just not the same thing as Pasadena. There are no tickets to buy and people can’t even begin to “save” spots until the morning of the parade, so there it’s just not the manic, stressful event Pasadena has grown into. As the crowds waited for the parade to come, kids played in the streets while the adults stood about three folks deep along the route with plenty of elbow room. Vendors with pushcarts strolled down the street with souvenirs. It was a lot of fun.
Eventually, several blocks from the Square, the mood changed. I couldn’t see anything, but we were approaching an intersection where the parade route made a turn. The people on the perpendicular street were standing, looking down the street away from us, almost leaning into the direction from which the parade would come. As if the gods had saved it for us, we found ourselves standing directly behind a family that was all set up to watch the parade from low chairs, giving us a perfect view of the festivities. We stood and waited for the parade to reach us.
We were wowed by the floats, enchanted by the equestrians and invigorated by the bands. Horses weren’t the only livestock. Llamas and ponies also streamed past us, each dolled up to the max. Chinese dragons wove their way among costumed marchers. Giant Hispanic characters frightened small children. Modes of transportation from horsedrawn firewagons to the zoo’s miniature train joined in the parade. Every person along the parade route stood up in honor of the Marine Band, but I’d have to say my favorite marchers were probably this contingent of airline hostesses dragging along their rolling suitcases.
This post could go on forever, because we have so many great pictures of gorgeous floats, breath-taking horses, funny costumes and automobiles full of pretty girls waving at the crowd, but like all parades, this one, too, must end. Join me next Monday to find out about Fleet Week and the City Fair, which both happen concurrently with Rose Week. We’ll also drop by the Portland Saturday Markets.