Where We Live: The Portland Rose Festival

The theme for this year's Rose Festival is "Bloomin' Good Time"

Northeast Portland's Hollywood neighborhood was taken over by cheerleaders, marching bands and ten shades of wacky fun for the 2014 Rose Festival Junior Parade.
Northeast Portland's Hollywood neighborhood was taken over by cheerleaders, marching bands and ten shades of wacky fun for the 2014 Rose Festival Junior Parade.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Rose Festival is one of the biggest and oldest civic celebrations in America. But how the festival began and why Portland was deemed the city of roses are closely intertwined.

Crowds gather to see dragon boaters on the Willamette River during the Rose Festival, May 30, 2015. (KOIN 6 News)
Crowds gather to see dragon boaters on the Willamette River during the Rose Festival, May 30, 2015. (KOIN 6 News)

Thousands of visitors descend on Portland every year for one of the country’s greatest celebrations.

It all began in 1905, when Portland put on a World’s Fair called the Lewis and Clark Exposition, in what is now known as the Northwest Industrial District. It was a bold undertaking for a small city on the west coast that became a huge success, bringing in nearly 2 million visitors from all over the world.

But when the fair ended in October 1905, Portland’s mayor Harry Lane decided to find a way to keep the festivities going.

“He called for a carnival of roses, an annual celebration that would just a couple of years later become the Rose Festival,” Marilyn Clint with the Portland Rose Festival told KOIN 6 News.

The first official Rose Festival was held in 1907, and its popularity continued to grow throughout the years.

But many wondered how the city adopted its rose symbol. KOIN 6 News learned around the turn of the century, a group of forward-thinking business leaders decided Portland should have a national identity. They encouraged people across town to grow roses in advance of the Lewis and Clark Exposition.

“So, Portland itself became just one big garden of roses,” Clint said.

The theme for this year’s Rose Festival is “Bloomin’ Good Time.” Governor Kate Brown and former Governor Barbara Roberts are the grand marshals at this Saturday’s Grand Floral Parade.

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