Florence prepares to 'Rhody Rendezvous' at the 111th annual Rhododendron Festival

May 2, 2018 — The 111th annual Florence Rhododendron Festival takes place from May 17 to 20, with preliminary events happening all week.

“Rhody Rendezvous,” this year’s theme, is intended to evoke a feeling of coming to Florence for an exciting gathering with friends and family and having a great time in Oregon’s Coastal Playground, according to Bettina Hannigan, executive director of the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s our 111th year, making us about a year older than the Portland Rose Festival but a little younger than Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses in California,” Hannigan said. “After that many years, we’re pretty sure that several generations of Oregonians and other visitors have rendezvoused around our rhodies many times.”

The Davis Shows Northwest Carnival opens on Wednesday afternoon at the Port of Siuslaw parking lot in Historic Old Town Florence; the Rhododendron Court coronation takes place Thursday evening at the Florence Events Center; and the town begins filling with rhody enthusiasts on Friday.

Saturday features the 5K Rhody Run and Walk; the 26th annual Rhody Classic Car Show ’n’ Shine from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Grocery Outlet parking lot; the Junior Parade and Kiwanis Kids Games at noon, and the Coast Radio Classic Car Cruise from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. through Old Town. The Rhododendron Festival Grand Floral Parade is at noon on Sunday.

Rhody Days also includes a vendor’s fair in Old Town, a spectacular rhododendron show along with live music, art and other festivities at the Florence Events Center, and Three Rivers Casino Resort will host the annual Let It Ride motorcycle show and other events.

“We’re looking to this year’s parade entrants to really step up again and rock the rhodies,” says Hannigan. “It’s one of the oldest floral festival parades in the west and we want every entry to have as many rhodies as possible.”

There are still a few openings for commercial and nonprofit groups, marching bands, music groups, vehicle clubs, animals and more to join the parade, which runs south on Highway 101 and through Old Town.

Applications for parade entries are available at FlorenceChamber.com/rhody-festival, at the Chamber’s Visitor’s Center at 290 Highway 101 and by contacting [email protected] The entry fee is $20.

The parade begins at noon on Sunday, May 20, at 27th Street and Highway 101.

The chamber is also recruiting volunteers, ages nine to 17, to carry banners ahead of parade entries for the chamber’s underwriters and distinguished sponsors. Each youth volunteer will receive a ticket to the Davis Shows Carnival on Sunday after the parade.

Volunteer applications, as well as the official Rhododendron Festival poster and schedule of events, are available at FlorenceChamber.com/rhody-festival.

Discounted one-day unlimited ride passes are also available at the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center and online at FlorenceChamber.com/rhody-festival through 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 16. 

Early birds save between $6 and $7 per person per day by purchasing tickets in advance. The regular price for an all-day pass is $20.

Each year during the Thursday night kick-off event at the Florence Events Center, officials crown Queen Rhododendra and The King of the Coast as the event’s official ambassadors.

Seven Siuslaw High School students make up the Senior Court this year. Princesses are Thelma Gentry, Lainey Goss, Alex Saindon, Andrea Sanchez and Denielle VanWinkle. The two princes are Trent Reavis and Colby Waters. The Junior Court is comprised of Mapleton third-grader Abigail Galvan and Siuslaw first-grader Aleeya Thomas, second-grader Jasmine Krause, fourth-grader Kylee Stinger and fifth-grader Brittney Adams.

Court members sell campaign-style pins for $3 featuring the festival’s logo. Pins are available from court members, at the Visitor’s Center, and around town. Proceeds go toward scholarships for members of the court.

Pins are also good for a dollar off a bowl of chowder at participating restaurants in May. The list currently includes Beachcomber Pub, Le Bouchon Café, Bay Street Grille, ICM Restaurant, Firehouse Restaurant and Homegrown Public House.

This year’s Rhody Parade Grand Marshal is Dr. Al Brauer, named Florence’s first-ever First Citizen in 1967.

Hannigan said, “There’s always so much to do in and around Florence, and the Rhododendron Festival adds even more fun to this place we call Oregon’s Coastal Playground.”

For a full listing of Rhody Days events, general information about the festival, parade entry forms, vendor fair applications or event schedules, check FlorenceChamber.com or contact Event Coordinator Terry Abeyta at 541-997-3128 or [email protected]


Caption: Florence’s Grand Floral Parade still has openings for marching bands, businesses, nonprofits and more. Siuslaw News File Photo