Rhododendron Festival moves to online celebration

(Photos by Jo Beaudreau) Top Row: Princess Brooklyn Cahoon, Princess Shakina Grover, Princess Kelsey Larson, Princess Madelynn Levi, Princess Chloe Madden and Princess Taylor Winona. Bottom Row: Prince Andrew Austin, Princess Farrah Baze, first grade; Princess Addison Stewart, second grade; Princess Abigael Hummel, third grade; Princess Rianna Weese, fourth grade; and Princess Emmy Center, fifth grade

Rhody Court plans video to go along with virtual parade, photo contest, run

May 9, 2020 — With the announcement this week of a virtual Rhododendron Festival Grand Floral Parade, Photo Contest and Rhody Run, the 2020 Rhododendron Court is also blasting into the spotlight. The 12 members of the Junior and Senior Court were interviewed by KCST/KCFM Coast Radio’s George Henry and visited Rotary Club of Florence. Now, the court is working on a video presentation of their talents, sponsors and plans for the future.

“The 2020 Rhody Court is so excited to continue to be part of local celebrations,” said Rhody Court Committee Chair Jenna Bartlett. “Not only are they a historic Rhody Court, they are a heroic court. These kids attend weekly Zoom meetings, check in with each other, get interviewed publicly and do many of the things that make our princes and princesses ambassadors for Florence each year.”

The video will introduce Siuslaw High School seniors Prince Andrew Austin, Princess Brooklyn Cahoon, Princess Shakina Grover, Princess Kelsey Larson, Princess Madelynn Levi, Princess Chloe Madden and Princess Taylor Winona.

It will also include Siuslaw Elementary students Princess Farrah Baze, first grade; Princess Addison Stewart, second grade; Princess Abigael Hummel, third grade; Princess Rianna Weese, fourth grade; and Princess Emmy Center, fifth grade.

“I think the video will give Florence a special way to participate in this year’s court,” said Rhody Court Committee member Meg Spencer. “This is a special group of young people who have decided to serve as a single court, and I’m so proud that this court will be remembered 113 years from now!”

The 12 members of the Court decided to donate a portion of the money they have raised from sales of the 2020 commemorative Rhody Days “Blast from the Past” button to Siuslaw Outreach Services. Button sales will continue throughout the year.

“It is so much fun working with this amazing court as we give them a chance to shine online,” Spencer said.

The entire court also made the decision to not select a Queen Rhododendra and King of the Coast this year. Instead, the Senior Court will all be honored with equal scholarships.

“When we release the video, we encourage the community to engage with and support these kids, who are missing an in-person Coronation, Grand Floral Parade, Junior Parade and all the trappings of our favorite Florence festival,” Bartlett said. “We hope you will enjoy getting to know this year’s Rhody Royalty.”

The video is one of several virtual celebrations of the 113th annual Rhody Days. 

The City of Florence and the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce are hosting a “Blast From the Past” Grand Floral Parade online. The virtual parade will premiere on Facebook on Sunday, May 17, at noon. People can upload short videos or photos to be included in the parade. For full details and how to submit, visit www.ci.florence.or.us/community/2020-rhody-parade.

In addition, the chamber partnered with Three Rivers Casino to create an online exhibit of photos from recent and historic Rhododendron Festivals. To enter, post photos in the event page “Blast From the Past - Rhody Days Photo Contest” on Facebook before Thursday, May 14, at 5 p.m.

If that is not enough excitement, Florence Habitat for Humanity is moving the annual Rhody Run to a virtual event and fundraiser. On May 16 and 17, people will be able to post a selfie of them running, walking or cycling in a socially distant race. There is a suggested donation of $20 to enter. Find out more at www.florencehabitat.org or call 541-902-9227.

“This is a unique year for the Rhody Festival, but we’re still going strong,” Bartlett said.

Senior Prince Andrew Austin is the only boy on the Rhody Court, but he has stepped in to participate with the rest of the court. He has been involved with band since the fifth grade. He also plays the guitar, piano and writes his own music. After high school he plans to attend the Oregon Institute of Technology to study computer science. Someday, he hopes to combine his lifelong love of music with his passion for technology. Prince Andrew is sponsored by Oregon Pacific Bank.

Senior Princess Brooklyn Cahoon, daughter of Ahren and Trudie Cahoon, is a legacy princess, following the footsteps of her brother Ben, who was named King of the Coast in 2017. “I am excited for the opportunities involved in the Rhody Court that will allow us to invest back in our community,” she said. She is active in sports, earning varsity in basketball, track and field and cheerleading. She plays guitar and sings, which has led to her decision to major in psychology and criminal justice and to minor in music. Princess Brooklyn is sponsored by First Community Credit Union.

Senior Princess Shakina Grover, daughter of Misty Berg, has lived in Florence most of her life and considers the area home. She has worked hard at both her schoolwork and her job, and helps support her little siblings. She has also had family in the Rhody Court. “I want to experience something fun and challenging before I leave the nest and officially start my adult life,” she said. Her goal is to major in marine biology so she can study turtles and the ocean. Princess Shakina is sponsored by Siuslaw News.

Senior Princess Kelsey Larson, daughter of Perry and Lori Larson, has looked forward to being on the Rhody Court since she was a kid. “Now, being older, I especially want to be on the court because I believe it will give me good experience being a part of my hometown and will benefit me in the future,” she said. She is an active volunteer and student leader, plays sports and holds a job. She wants to be an acute care pediatric nurse practitioner. Princess Kelsey is sponsored by Copeland Lumber.

Senior Princess Madelynn Levi, daughter of Michael Levi and Mica Harmond, remembers wanting to be on the Rhody Court since second grade. She is an active volunteer and brings holiday cheer to people on Christmas and Easter. “Service to others has become a vital part of my life,” she said. She acts, sings and dances and has been involved in 20 shows in four years. She plans to pursue a degree in theater arts and hopes to one day open a performing arts center. Princess Maddy is sponsored by Soroptimist International of Florence.

Senior Princess Chloe Madden, daughter of Barbara and Terry Madden, has been part of Rhody Days since she was a child. She has been active in sports, band and theater. She wants to use her life story to “show the young girls in our community that beauty is not decided on hair and makeup, but rather comes from strength.” She plans to pursue a career in mechanical engineering and robotics. Princess Chloe is sponsored by Siuslaw Valley Firefighters Association.

Senior Princess Taylor Winona, daughter of Sarah Collins and Tyson Butler, is again on the Rhody Court after serving as a Junior Princess. “Participating in the pageant helped me see how fulfilling building relationships and assisting others can be,” she said. She looks forward to mentoring others and sharing experiences. She is a singer and has performed at several events. She is graduating a year early and plans to become a school counselor. Princess Taylor is sponsored by Florence Dental Clinic.

First Grade Princess Farrah Baze, daughter of Lauren Baze, has had a lot of family on the Rhody Court (including her aunt Senior Princess Chloe). “I want to be a Rhododendron Princess because they are beautiful and kind and respectful and responsible.” Princess Farrah is sponsored by Little Brown Hen.

Second Grade Princess Addison Stewart, daughter of Lauren Stewart, loves pretty dresses, the ocean and this community. “I want to be a Rhododendron Princess because I want to help the community. … I love our community.” Princess Addison is sponsored by West Coast Real Estate.

Third Grade Princess Abigael Hummel, daughter of Steven Hummel, loves this town. “I want to be a Rhododendron Princess because I would like to be a part of something amazing. It would be so cool.” Princess Abigael is sponsored by A&W Restaurant.

Fourth Grade Princess Rianna Weese, daughter of Tim and Kelli Weese, has lived in Florence her whole life and wants to try new things. “I love meeting new people and getting to see this great town.” Princess Rianna is sponsored by Sue Gilday, State Farm Insurance.

Fifth Grade Princess Emmy Center, daughter of Lance and Jamie Center, is the third fifth-grade princess in her family. “I want to be a Rhody Princess because I have been wanting to all through elementary school. I want to have a Senior Princess as a role model.” Princess Emmy is sponsored by Center Brothers Construction.