Rhody Days is Back in Bloom this week

Photo by Will Yurman

Rhody Court Coronation, carnival kick off festival May 19

May 18, 2022 — The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce’s Rhododendron Festival begins tomorrow, May 19, and runs through Sunday, May 22. Events are scheduled across Florence in the next four days as Rhody Days is “Back in Bloom.” 

To start the festival, the iconic Davis Shows NW Carnival has rolled into the Port of Siuslaw with its rides, games, food carts and Ferris wheel. The activities include live music, kids games, a boat cruise, car show, vendor fair and more — all culminating in the Grand Floral Parade on Sunday at noon.

Another mark of the beginning of the festival is the Rhododendron Court Coronation, which takes place Thursday, May 19, at the Florence Events Center at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are still available for the show, which will feature a dance number, interviews, talents and a showcase of 15 area youth and their ambassadorship for the area.

“We are definitely back in bloom and I'm loving it,” said Coronation Director Wendy Krause. “I love that we're back with an amazing group of seniors and juniors who will win over your hearts.”

The Junior Court consists of Siuslaw Elementary first-grade Princess Katelynn Riddle, second-grade Princess Myla Streck, third-grade Princess Chanel Chatham, fourth-grade Princess Giavanna Flosi and fifth-grade Princess Lily Lewis.

The Senior Court is made up of 10 seniors from Mapleton and Siuslaw high schools. Princess Alexia Clark, Princess Haylee Cole, Princess Alex Fuller, Princess Cameron Kentta and Princess Alizabeth Norton will be competing for the title of Queen Rhododendra at the Coronation. In addition, Prince Jason Garcia, Prince Chad Hughes, Prince Camp Lacouture, Prince Joseph Shepard and Prince James Smith will be competing for the title of King of the Coast.

“They're strong. They're movers and shakers. They're making things happen. And I'm thankful for them,” Krause said.

Dozens of sponsors came together to support the Rhody Court, Coronation and events leading up to this week. They will get special attention during the event. Many of these are in addition to the chamber’s underwriters and corporate sponsors.

The Rhododendron Court Committee invites the community to get to know the Senior Court by reading the bios the students prepared.

Princess Alexia Clark is honored to be a part of history by being on the Rhody Court. Her dad is Randy Clark. Some people might recognize Alexia from being a part of the Siuslaw Varsity Cheerleading Team or from her work as the current president of the National Honor Society. She loves to learn and lead. Plus, she enjoys time with her dog, Honey. After graduating a year early this June, Alexia will be attending the University of Oregon with a full-ride scholarship to major in business and finance. She has enjoyed being an ambassador for the Back in Bloom Rhododendron Festival and for her hometown, Florence.

Princess Haylee Cole is a 16-year-old senior at Siuslaw High School. You might recognize Haylee from past CROW and LRP productions, as one of the co-captains on the cheerleading team and as a member of the basketball team. Haylee has been dancing since she was 3 years old and worked her way up to be on the Flight Dance Team. You might also know her from her parents’, Keith and Tamara Cole, business, BJ’s Ice Cream. After high school, Haylee plans on majoring in business and minoring in musical Theatre. Haylee enjoys writing stories, performing, horseback riding, hanging out with friends and going to the beach. Haylee is excited to be part of this year’s 2022 Rhody Court!

A future attorney, an early graduate and a seasoned actress, Princess Alex Fuller loves to sing, dance and act. She has been involved in CROW since 2011, participating in many different shows and is a member of Wood Vocal and Piano Studio. Alex was involved in many pageants and won the Starburst Pageant at age 2. She and her dad, Nathan Fuller, are excited to be back on the pageant stage together. Alex enjoys playing volleyball and writing short stories. After high school, Alex plans on getting her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, attending law school and becoming an attorney.

Prince Jason Garcia has lived in Florence his whole life, knows the area well, and loves calling Florence “home.” He is a 17-year-old senior at Siuslaw High School. For as long as he can remember, Jason has played sports. Currently he participates in soccer, wrestling and baseball. Jason says a big part of why he plays sports is because of his mom, Guadalupe Garcia. “My mom has been there for me, helping me and encouraging me to do my best in everything I do,” he said. Jason also enjoys music, photography, hiking and swimming. After high school, Jason would like to get a degree in fire science.

Prince Chad Hughes is a senior at Siuslaw High School. His parents are Elizabeth and Jeff Hughes. After graduation, he will be attending Lane Community College to finish his associate’s degree and run on their cross country and track teams. After that, he plans to transfer to Oregon State University and major in biochemistry and molecular biology, hoping to get into medical school and become a general cardiologist. Chad has enjoyed running all over Florence and taking in all the nature. One of his favorite memories in Florence is working with members of the community to earn his Eagle Scout award. He will definitely miss the Oregon Coast and plans to visit as often as he can.

Princess Cameron Kenntta is a Senior at Siuslaw High School. Her parents are Tim and Kim Erickson and Kevin Kentta. Cameron has been involved in the CROW productions of “Tarzan” and “The Wiz.” This year, she decided to change things up and interview for the Rhododendron Court instead. Cameron has also been a student at Wood Vocal and Piano Studio since 2018. As a Florence Native, Cameron is happy to live in a small, close, caring community. Upon graduating, she plans to move to Eugene and go to beauty school at IBS School of Cosmetology and Massage and study to become a hair stylist and esthetician. Cameron has enjoyed getting to know her junior princess, Lily.

Prince Camp Lacouture is the son of Ann and Brian Lacouture. He has enjoyed participating in clubs and playing football, basketball and running track for Siuslaw High School. In the fall, he will begin his communication studies major at Utah State University, before embarking on a two-year church mission following the academic year. Two of Camp’s favorite memories in town are playing football on Friday nights and starting a Christmas light business with a friend during the COVID quarantine. Camp loves Florence and the support the community has given him and his peers in all the positive endeavors they pursue.

Senior Rhody Court Princess Alizabeth Norton plans on moving to Newberg, Ore., when her high school career is over to attend George Fox University and major in English. Alizabeth participates in Siuslaw High School’s track and field team. This is her first year doing this sport and she is a senior. She is a firm believer in trying new things, regardless of what age you start, and that it’s never too late. She has also been on the volleyball team, in choir and in lead roles in CROW. She has sung the Star Spangled Banner at many events. Alizabeth’s parents, Mike and Gennifer Norton, are her biggest support system and shaped her into the woman she is today.

Prince Joseph Shepard is a senior at Mapleton High School. His parents are Bill and Julie Shepard. He is an excellent student, athlete and ballroom dancer. This summer, he will travel to Spain to immerse in the language and culture. Joseph looks forward to attending Oregon State University, majoring in mathematics and aiming to earn a Ph.D. He also hopes to contribute to the growth of the university’s dance and theater programs. After graduate school, Joseph plans to pursue a career in actuarial science. The comradery between his fellow royalty and the enriching activities are his favorite aspects of the Rhododendron Court experience. He looks forward to being an ambassador for the upcoming Rhododendron festival.

Go Ducks! Prince James Smith is a senior at Siuslaw High School and will be attending the University of Oregon in the fall, majoring in computer and information science. You might know James from the State Champion Football team, the track and field team, or from the window of the local Dutch Bros. He attends Cross Road Assembly Church, is active in Rotary’s Interact Club and is part of the National Honor Society. James has enjoyed all activities with the Rhody Court, but mostly just hanging out as a group. He would like to thank his parents, Mike and Timre Smith, for being his biggest fans.

After the Coronation, the community will get to see many of the Rhody Court members at events throughout the weekend. This includes the Rhody Run, Junior Parade and especially Sunday’s parade, which begins at noon, makes its way down Highway 101 and wends through Historic Old Town Florence. There will be two floats for the Rhody Court, both handmade by the float sponsors, designers and committee members. 

A new addition to the slate of activities take place on Saturday, May 21, when the full court arrives at the Port of Siuslaw dock just west of Mo’s via a Coast Guard boat. The court will disembark and walk up to the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum on Maple Street for a meet and greet from 4 to 4:45 p.m. While there, the 2022 King and Queen will be presented with rhododendron wood keys to the city by Florence Mayor Joe Henry.

“Did you know the first Queen Rhododendra, Laura Johnson, was given a key to the city that was carved out of rhododendron wood?” asked Committee member Kay King. “We are bringing back this tradition.”

To purchase tickets for the Rhododendron Court Coronation, visit eventcenter.org.

To learn more about Rhody Days events, visit florencechamber.com.