Checking in with Portland's Rose Queen of 1957

Retired middle school teacher Alice Simpson, 76, was 18 years old when she was crowned. Here, she shares her memories of the festival's early days.

By Larisa Owechko April 27, 2015 Published in the May 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

1957 Rose Festival Queen - Alice Simpson

Image: Alice Simpson

What do you remember most about the ’57 Rose Festival?

I’m not very tall, so I thought I could never be the queen. When Oregon’s Secretary of State Mark Hatfield announced that I had won, I couldn’t believe it. I’m only five-two!

Why do you think you were chosen?

The student body president at Lincoln High School was my chaperone, and he was standing beside my chair and telling me jokes. That kept me laughing and looking lively throughout the ceremony. Also the judges had spent weeks with us, and I was always a little jabberwocky. I could talk to anyone. I’m not sure if it was teachers or other kids who nominated me. I always laugh and say that I had a good chance because I went to three grade schools, so more people knew me.

What did you do during your reign as the Rose Queen?

The Rose Festival sent me to New York to speak about Portland and the festival. I got to be on the Pat Boone show. I talked about how wonderful Oregon is and how nice the people are. I like the beautiful places that have been saved here, like the Park Blocks. People really cherish those beautiful parks. Two days ago, we went to the Rose Garden and my husband had me walk the Queen’s Walk. Portland is such a beautiful place.

Do you still go to the Rose Festival?

I got to ride on a float for the 100th anniversary celebration in 2007. I used to work for the city and was the first woman to direct the Metropolitan Youth Commission, and the kids were there smiling and laughing as I rode by. 

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