Every year, the City of Roses* throws itself a big party, in the form of the Portland Rose Festival. The city’s official festival includes more than 60 events, starting in late May and ending with dragon boat races the second weekend of June. In between, there are parades, carnival rides and fun galore. (Best of all, everyone is invited!)
The festival proper kicks off with a spectacular fireworks show on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. For a great view, grab a seat on the Ferris wheel in the CityFair, which features rides, food and beer and live music in downtown’s Waterfront Park, featuring RoZone headlining performer and professional booty-shaking party starter.
The evening Starlight Parade features illuminated floats and a “Portlandia” section with syncopated drummers, roller derby teams and the Portland Zombie Walk. The fest’s hallmark event, the Grand Floral Parade , travels from Memorial Coliseum (where reserved seating is available), across the Willamette River and through downtown, delighting crowds with around 20 all-floral floats, 18 marching bands and 19 equestrian units – in addition to vintage vehicles, colorful dancers and more. For a closer look at the impressive floats, which are meticulously decorated with natural materials like seeds and coconut flakes in addition to flowers, check out the Grand Floral Float Showcase, located adjacent to the CityFair for a day and a half following the parade.
A stroll along the waterfront will yield a much different view as the Portland Rose Festival has acted as a U.S. Port of Call for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and Royal Canadian Navy for over 80 years. Known as Fleet Week, gigantic naval ships line the shore, giving visitors an up-close view of our nation’s seafaring military vessels and a chance to meet sailors, take on-board tours and learn about the U.S. Navy firsthand.
Get to the fragrant source at the Portland Rose Society Annual Spring Rose Show, the nation’s largest and longest-running rose show, which brings more than 4,000 blooms to the Lloyd Center Ice Rink.
Last but not least, the Portland Rose Festival Dragon Boat Race brings the party to the river as 80 local, national and international teams compete in ornate boats provided by the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association.
*Portland is known as the “City of Roses” because the weather is ideal for growing them. There are three fabulous rose gardens in Portland. The best-known is the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. Whatever you do during Rose Fest, take time to smell the roses.