Want to celebrate in Portland? You better have a parade!

FACT! We have attended more parades in Portland than we have in our entire lives.

It seems as though every big celebration in Portland has a parade associated. Last fall when we visited, we attended the Macy’s Christmas parade and fell in love with the city. There have been several parades in the past few weeks. One of which I really wanted to attend but couldn’t….It was the “Starlight parade” which celebrates the Portland Rose festival (May 23-June 8) at night. So the floats are lit up and travel down mostly dark streets, and they televise it because it’s a big deal. Portland does an amazing job at coordinating the events. From the police to organizing street vendors, they do a far better job than what either of us are used to with events of this size.

This past weekend we attended the “Grand Floral Parade” which is the crown jewel of the magnificent two week rose festival. The parade is a little odd because prior to the actual event they have a “Grand Floral Walk” where participants just walk the parade route. Occasionally someone would cheer the walkers and they would respond by hamming it up. The vibe was set from the get go…it was a fun crowd. It was a gorgeous 70 degrees and sunny. After the wait for the parade to arrive, the choked up feeling Ginger and I felt back in December returned to us both. I think it was a combination of reminiscing and recognition that we have these celebrations in our backyard.  As the parade marched we found ourselves clapping along with the marching bands and cheering the peace corps as well as the other varieties of groups, businesses, or civic leaders. Alaska Air even had a large contingency of flight attendants and a fairly elaborate choreography which included travel bags, pirates, and a beautiful float. I was amazed that a town this size could put on such a world class celebration…..and everyone was loving it! No riots….no scandals….just fun. For all you fellow band nerds, you’ll be happy to know that the very BEST marching band in the parade was a group called “One more time around again”. They were an enormous conglomerate (500 active members) of ex college and high school band members ranging from 18 to 80’s in age. Of course their soul, rhythm, and performance was second to none. They got the crowd pumped up big time. I could go on to describe how wonderful all the floats and people were but you get the point…I will leave the parade part of this blog with two things: Alpaca with a fez and Poop Squatch! Serious awesomeness.

After the parade we grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor selling locally sourced links from a company that’s been around since the 1920’s…Do I need to say it? Really? Okay…AWESOME dog! Best I ever had in fact.

We made our way down to Tom McCall park (which is where all events end up in Portland) to watch the dragon boat races. Again the event was well organized and orchestrated. Four boats would be out on the water while four more were on the dock loading up. When the one race was done the next four would leave in perfect time so the other four could dock and allow the next 80 rowers enough time to get into their boats. Many races were blowouts, but as the day progressed the competition got a little more tight and the races started to get more exciting. The crowd on the river banks cheered louder and louder as the boats got closer to each other at the finish. The teams were warming up with their yell chants and dances, there was no blocking out the electric atmosphere. Many teams had funny names like “no teacher left behind” and “draggin’ bones”. All took it seriously but were clearly having fun…how could they not?

I was amazed at how pedestrian friendly the city was (yet again). We walked from the parade route to the waterfront….then up to a small strip center to grab a cone of ice cream…only to return to the banks to watch more racing. As we sat watching the racers in the glorious sunlight, I felt like celebrating the city. HEY a PARADE!

Look! Alpaca with a fez!

Look! Alpaca with a fez!

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