May 25, 2022 — The Florence Region Chamber of Commerce brought back the 115th Rhododendron Festival from May 19-22 with the theme “Back in Bloom”. It marked four days of fun in Florence, especially with the return of several Rhody Days favorites, such as the Davis Shows NW Carnival, Maple Street Vendor Fair, Rhody Days Show and Shine, children’s activities and the Grand Floral Parade.
“It was fun! And it was about time,” said Bettina Hannigan, President and CEO of Florence Chamber. “People were ready to party.
The theme matched the mood of many of the thousands of people present. The chamber pre-sold passes to the carnival, selling 1,400 wristbands before the sale was over. That’s a 100% increase from 2019, the last year the full festival took place.
“The whole Rhododendron Festival is about 185% of what it was in 2019,” Hannigan said. “Parade revenue was up.”
The Davis family, who have brought their carnival to Rhody Days for more than 50 years, reported to the chamber that their income has increased by an average of 2 to 300 percent at their annual events.
“It’s an outdoor event, so I think it’s more comfortable for some people who are a little more wary,” Hannigan said.
The Florence area chamber of commerce planned the return of Rhody Days around CDC guidelines for outdoor gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Mitzi Hathaway, director of tourism development for the chamber, “A thousand details must be brought together for an event of this magnitude. When we started planning the festival in December, we were still on uncertain ground with the lingering Delta and Omicron COVID variants. Still, we kept moving forward with the logistics with our fingers crossed. »
There were a few entries in the parade that pulled out due to COVID, but late contestants were able to fill in, leaving the total of around 80 attendees this year.
“It was all about bringing the best possible party to Florence!” Hathaway said.
Large numbers at certain events, such as carnival or show and shine, did not deter people from enjoying the festivities.
“The auto show has been phenomenal this year,” Hannigan said. “Thanks to Ross Kroenert, Gary Cargill and Rods ‘N’ Rhodies, Inc., for that, because they really put together a hell of a production.”
This is Rods ‘N’ Rhodies’ first year performing the Rhody Days Show and Shine, and the band transferred it to Siuslaw Middle School. This allowed for much more space for vehicles and vendors, as well as a prime spot for people to visit Oscar Mayer’s Weinermobile.
The hot dog-shaped vehicle arrived in Florence thanks to the coordination of Dan and Teresa Lofy, business owners, chamber members and volunteers.
Local nonprofits were able to set up booths at the show and shine, and food vendors ran out of food when the winds picked up.
The college was also a good place to watch the Junior Parade go by, with local gymnastics, home school, the Florence Community PTA and others saluting as they marched down Oak Street. The parade is organized annually by Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue.
Many were able to follow the parade route to the field next to Siuslaw High School, where the Kiwanis Club of Florence and the Key Club hosted the Kiwanis Children’s Games. Over 250 children came to the games in the first hour. Special highlights of the day included a tour of Rhody Court 2022 and the 501st Legion.
It was a busy day for the Court, as Queen Rhododendra Haylee Cole and Coast King Joseph started their morning at the Rhody Run, organized by Florence Habitat for Humanity at the Florence Events Center (FEC). Court activities included numerous Saturday events, including a visit to the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum.
Habitat has also relaunched the Rhody Mosey.
The FEC was also the site of the Siuslaw chapter of the American Rhododendron Society’s Rhody Flower Show, featuring a rhododendron and azalea display and plant sale, and the Florence Regional Arts Alliance’s 10th annual Rhody Days arts festival .
In addition to the many activities from Thursday to Sunday, the Rhody Days are crowned each year by the Grand Floral Parade.
The annual parade features dignitaries – mayors of Florence, Dunes City and Newport; First and future first citizen of Florence; and more – plus floats, marching bands, bikes, clowns, horses and music. This year’s grand marshals were the state champion Siuslaw Vikings football team and the state champion girls’ and boys’ cross country teams.
“Our two-person, full-time team couldn’t do what we do, without the help of chamber volunteers and coordinators from other festival events across Florence,” Hathaway noted. “It was teamwork!”
Hannigan said more than 20 volunteers stepped up just to help “scramble” the traffic, including members of the Rotary Interact Club at Siuslaw High School. The Lofys also played an important role in the making of the parade.
The chamber also assembled a panel of judges for some of the parade awards. The judges were Christina Voogd from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Aqsa Khan from RAIN and Jesse Dolin from the Oregon Coast Visitors Association.
“This year’s festival will go down in history as a festival of special significance,” Hathaway said. “Not only did it bring thousands of people and much-needed tourist dollars to Florence, but it was a community celebration of coming through a two-year pandemic together!”
For more information, visit FlorenceChamber.com.
Grand Floral Parade Judge’s Choice Award
- school #12 & #13 Rhody Sr. & Jr. Short Tie
- Dignitary #11 Future First Citizen Ava Glowacki
- A service #30 Florence Habitat for Humanity
- Commercial #31 Three Rivers Casino
- Equestrian #38 Eugene Pro Rodeo
- Non-commercial #54 Lebanon Strawberry Festival
- Judges favorite #65 City of Florence
- Novelty #72 Florence Jeeps R Us