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Fleet Week Floats into Town for Rose Festival Celebration

Portland community welcomes military service members

Presented by Portland Rose Festival By Ben McBee May 13, 2019

Portland is the city of many bridges. By water, it sits over 100 miles away from the mouth of the Columbia River. But for nearly every year since 1907, colossal ships (and sometimes submarines) of the US Navy, Coast Guard, and Royal Canadian Navy have been trekking up the Willamette, ducking their heads under the St. Johns, Fremont, Broadway, and Steel bridges to moor at the city’s waterfront.

Fleet Week is an integral part of the tradition and history that surrounds the Rose Festival and has been since its inaugural celebration alongside the USS Charleston. During this special occasion, officers and military personnel have the chance to experience Portland, and citizens get the opportunity to forge a more personal connection not only with members of the armed forces, but with what they do and what they stand for as well.

“We’re always looking for more opportunities for sailors to engage directly into the community,” says Rose Festival CEO Jeff Curtis. “Both philanthropically with charitable activities, but also in a more proactive way to engage with Portland’s culture, its food, its social scene, its people.”

This year, from June 5 to 9, striking gray hulls will anchor at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, providing an excellent opportunity for people to tour the vessels and learn about the Navy firsthand. A Galley Wars competition will put military chefs’ culinary skills on display and further strengthen civic awareness.

In the past, more than 20 of the craft created a breathtaking spectacle. Today, fewer make the journey due to budget constraints, but still, the excitement is palpable as they plot their course upstream to be greeted by the cheerful waves of onlookers. “Once those ships start coming to town, it just creates this energy, this vibe, this festival atmosphere that you can’t replicate under a normal event circumstance,” Curtis says.

Each year, more stories and memories are made, and a truly international presence is brought to the Rose Festival when visiting dignitaries and tourists flock to Portland. There have even been a few marriages that began because of Fleet Week. Board members hope to keep the treasured event grow- ing, perhaps adding nonmilitary research and humanitarian boats to the revelry in the future.

Most importantly, Fleet Week is the perfect time to thank the men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our city, state, and country.

Learn more at RoseFestival.org/Fleet-Week