It’s Nothing Short of Wild…
One of the largest and oldest community festivals in Oregon gets underway officially today as the curtain rises on the 105th annual Rhododendron Festival. Many of the events are centered in the Old Town Florence area… things like the Davis Shows Carnival, Maple Street Vendors Fair and the KCST Classic Car Cruise. While still more will be scattered at other locations around town. Chamber Executive Director Cal Applebee says the sun will be out and true to the festival theme, the weekend will be “Nothing Short of Wild”. That, of course, refers to the slogan for Sea Lion Caves, celebrating 80-years of business in the Florence area. The visitor attraction and wildlife sanctuary is the official Grand Marshall for the culmination of the festival, the Grand Floral Parade.
Cal Applebee – “The big finale is Sunday, staging starts at 10:00 in the morning over at 27th and Oak. Gonna be lots of entries. We’re up over 80 entries currently and they’re still trickling in.”
Beginning at noon Sunday, entries will parade south on Highway 101 and through Historic Old Town Florence in front of an audience of thousands expected to line the streets in celebration of the ubiquitous pink native Rhododendrons that are just coming into full bloom.
Police Chief Ray Gutierrez says severe budget cutbacks at Lane County will mean a different look for the police presence over this festival weekend.
Ray Gutierrez – “What’s going to be different for us is that we’re not going to have everybody on Bay Street like we have done. So we’ll have some patrol, patrolling the streets and taking calls where Sheriff’s Office kind of helped us out in the past in doing.”
In past festivals, there has been a heavy foot-patrol presence of officers in and around Bay Street, keeping an eye on the party atmosphere. Gutierrez says things have been much more calm in the past few years.
Ray Gutierrez – “I think ever since we did away with the drinking on Bay Street and have the no-alcohol ordinance, it really has calmed things down.”
In addition to keeping an eye on Old Town, officers will be paying special attention to drivers using cell phones this weekend. An unmarked police vehicle will be patrolling the area watching for that, and all officers will be watching for drivers under the influence. Along those lines, if you choose to drink and don’t want to drive; the Rhody Express will be providing free rides this evening and tomorrow evening.
You’ll want to be up and at ‘em early tomorrow morning as entries for the Siuslaw Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society Show will be accepted at the Florence Events Center. That’s from seven until nine AM. Then judges will be sequestered until 1:00 when the doors will open to the public. Viewing of one of the West Coast’s larges Rhododendron Shows will be open to the public from one to five tomorrow, ten to five Sunday.
The Florence Events Center will also be the site of the annual Rhododendron Pageant. We heard from three of the princesses earlier this week… our fourth is Marisha Reavis who has already been accepted to Oregon State University where she’ll study Marine Biology. Princess Marisha is no novice to Rhody Royalty, she was also on the Junior Court when she was in the fifth grade.
Marissa Reavis– “I was actually really awkward and weird kind of because I didn’t fit in with the younger girls and the older girls were not really in my age group so I kind of felt like a loner.”
That gives her a special ‘connection’ with one of the two Junior Court Princesses that she mentors. She watches over fifth grader Casey Arvilla along with first grader Nikita Barrett. The other three princesses are second grader Phoebe Collinge (CAWL-inj); third grader Joslin Peckham; and Destiny Gustafson representing the fourth grade. All 9 princesses will be on stage this evening at the annual Queen’s Coronation Pageant, seven PM at the FEC.
By the way, a complete listing of festival events can be found in this Wednesday’s Siuslaw News.