By the third weekend of May, Rhododendron Festival organizers hope everyone in Florence will have, and be wearing, one of this year’s Rhododendron Festival buttons.
And this year, there is a delicious, old-fashioned benefit that comes with pin ownership.
This year’s pin follows the festival’s theme, “Always Ready to Rhody” — a motto borrowed from the Coast Guard’s “Semper Paratus,” or “Always Ready.”
In honor of the Coast Guard’s centennial anniversary in Florence, USCG Station Siuslaw River was chosen to be the festival’s honorary parade grand marshals. The festival button features the “Always Ready” motto, an anchor, a patriotic red, white and blue color scheme, and the traditional rhododendron bloom.
The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce, organizer of the May 19-21 event, is bringing back two of the festival’s past traditions — metal campaign-style buttons and clam chowder.
For many years of their history, the Rhody Festival buttons were round, enameled, tin pins. More recently, the pins were a smaller metal die-cut shape or a cloisonné-style, and thus more expensive.
In an effort to make the buttons more affordable, the committee is offering the “old-fashioned” coated metal pin for $3 this year. Proceeds go toward scholarships for Queen Rhododendra, the King of the Coast and members of the Rhody Court.
So what’s the chowder connection? As an incentive to purchase buttons, local restaurants are offering $1 off a bowl of clam chowder to each person wearing a 2017 Rhody button through the month of May.
Participating restaurants will have a sign posted at their entrance and a participant’s list will be posted at www.FlorenceChamber.com.
The new Rhody buttons can be purchased from any of the Rhododendron Court members, merchant button boxes and at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center, 290 Highway 101.