The Rose Festival Is Back in Portland, in Person, for 2022

And it brings clowns, queens, parades, and an economic boom.

By Julia Silverman May 18, 2022 Published in the Spring 2022 issue of Portland Monthly

After a two-year hiatus, the city’s signature summer kickoff is back in full bloom. Turning 115 this year, the Portland Rose Festival has a colorful history, from the early days of chariot-and-harness races to 1950s-era drama between would-be Rose Festival Queens to the great duct tape showdown of 2008, after the long-standing practice of claiming parade route “seats” the night before with tape was outlawed, much to the disgust of many a suburbanite. The first COVID year, 2020, marked only the third time the festival has been completely suspended, following cancellations during the Great War and when Multnomah Stadium (now Providence Park) was under construction. Clowns, milk-carton boat enthusiasts, and Rosarians alike hope this year’s event (set for May 27–June 11) marks a return to form.

1936 Year the Hollywood neighborhood’s Junior Parade, officially the country’s longest-running children’s parade, became an official Rose Festival event

200,000 Number of parade enthusiasts who typically flood into downtown Portland to watch the Starlight Parade 

1972 The year the nighttime electric parade, then known as Merrykhana, dissolved into a street brawl. It wouldn’t return again until 1976, when it was rebranded as the Starlight Parade.

$75 million Annual economic impact of the event, per a 2012 study by the International Festival and Events Association

At least 3 Number of times the grand marshal of the Grand Floral Parade has been a nonhuman. That includes Packy, the Oregon Zoo’s beloved and dearly missed elephant, in 2012, the Columbia Sportswear influencer Mickey Mouse in 1985, and “the community of Portland” in 2007 (did an ask fall through last minute that year?)

Rose Festival Queens who’ve been named Dorothy, the most of any name (Runner-up: Jean, with three, or a tie if we add the one Jeanne)

100+ Official Rose Festival clowns who roam the streets during the festival’s parades, led by a “Clown Prince” who is also the coauthor of a children’s book about his origin story

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