portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting portland metro

community building | corporate dominance

Portland Rose Festival: Here's to "Community" (TM)

The warships are coming upstream again, and the logos are in the air. Must be time for the Portland Rose Festival. This is the time of year when citizens shut the city down, block all the streets, and make lots of noise. But the police, for once, don't pepper spray them. This is a permitted, sanctioned activity.
There's something for everyone in this year's Rose Festival. If you're into a dose of sexist objectification of women, you probably checked out the Fred Meyer® queen's coronation last night. Missed it? Not your thing? Fear not, there's more. Tonite, you will be treated to the STARsm ATM/Debit® Fireworks Spectacular. If you like to run, you can participate in the Key Bank® Starlight Run this weekend. Saturday night, the Portland General Electric® starlight parade will wind down the streets, and on June 12th, the Southwest Airlines® Grand Floral Parade will do the same. (It's all right. We can take the streets for corporately sponsored festivities like this one, just not to protest against a war.)

Any day of the week, head on down to the Pepsi® waterfront village, and check out the Wells Fargo® Western Trail, the Fred Meyer® Kid's Kingdom, or take one of a number of exciting tours. You can experience the Nivia® Skin Inspiration tour, to learn about the exciting new skincare products brought to you by Nivia®, and the Allavert Allergy® "wherever you are" tour where you can win prizes and learn tips for coping with indoor and outdoor allergies.

Do you prefer "experiences" to "tours"? Like I said, there's something here for every consumer. Try the Hewlett Packard® experience, also at the Pepsi® waterfront village. According to the official rose fest website, this fascinating exhibit "is an interactive museum designed to help consumers realize ... spectacular realms of experiences through the use of HP's digital technology and applications."

There's even an experience for your cat. Be sure not to miss the Purina Cat Chow Way® of Life Experience, where you "will enjoy the opportunity to mingle with the Purina Cat Chow Mentors as they explore the cat adoption area, learn something new and exciting at the Cat Chow® Life Stage Gauge, and experience the video, "A Cat's Perspective"!" Wow, I know I can hardly wait for this one.

I'm not making this up. It's all right here, on the official website:  http://www.rosefestival.org/index.html.

Do you get the feeling you're being sold out? That's because you are. This is not community, it's consumerism. The civic spirit left events like this long ago. You're no longer a human being going to the fair to socialize with other human beings. Now you're a commodity. A "Consumer." A "prospect." The city is selling you to one corporate sponsor after another after another.

According to the rose fest website, corporate sponsorship has many benefits. Here are some of them, in their very own words:

Increased sales: 70% of attendees say they are more likely to purchase a product/service from a Rose Festival sponsor.

One-to-one marketing: interact directly with millions of customers and prospects.

Brand awareness: increase your product's visibility both on-site and through ads on highly rated event broadcasts.

Sampling: put your products in your prospects' hands.

Promotional offers: distribute coupons, create sweepstakes or contests, etc. to maximize your return.

Retail traffic: build promotions that increase store traffic.

Database building: integrate promotional elements that provide demographic and buying behavior information.

Goodwill: enhance your perception in the community by partnering with the longest running civic celebration in Portland.

Employee relations: involve employees in event activities to build enthusiasm, teamwork and loyalty.

If this list isn't disgusting to you, you haven't read it closely enough. This is a diagram on how to sneak into your life through a supposedly civic event. This is about helping corporate profiteers "maximize their returns" at your expense. This is a cold, jaded analysis of how our sense of community can be co-opted and used as a tool for the corporate machine.

It's also about invading your privacy. The "database building" item seems innocuous enough, until you consider that they're talking about using your name and personal information in ways you do not necessarily agree to. This happens when you're asked to fill out sweepstakes and questionnairs at the fair, and months later you start getting unsolicited ads in the mail. Who knows where all that information winds up? But if anyone ever wants to know anything about you, a fairly extensive dosier can be assembled from these corporate databases: everything from your name, age, gender and address to what toothpaste you buy, what magazines you subscribe to, which medications you're currently taking. Anything you say can and will be used against you.

Clearly, the organizers of this event have no respect for you, me, or this community. To them, we are merely "prospects." Rose fest organizers proudly proclaim, "More than two million people attend 60-plus events during this world-class celebration that generates $80 million annually for Oregon's economy." But the spoils don't seem to be going to Oregon's economy, even if that were all we cared about. Pepsi, Wells Fargo, Nivia, Hewlett Packard, Purina...these are not Oregon companies. Even Fred Meyer is no longer a local company. These are leeches who have descended upon our town this week to suck up whatever goodwill and dollars they can find here.

The fact is, we DO care about our community. And we care about much more than how much money the capitalists among us can make. We crave each others' company. We crave opportunities to come together without being manipulated and sold out. We owe it to each other to blow off faux corporate extravagaanza events like this one, and instead build our own communities. Let us seek each other out without the speculative interference of Pepsi or Wells Fargo or Southwest Airlines. Let us find, and create, events that allow us to celebrate who we are and who we want to become without asking for money at the gate and without self-interested corporate sponsorship.
on target! 04.Jun.2004 14:09


This is what Rose Festival has become...exactly. Baaaaaa (as in sheep)...Don't go there. We are way more than the sum of our purchasing power. Community means gathering together, finding PEOPLE, not products. I am sick of the big sell, and Catwoman hit the nail on the head with this posting.

real community events 04.Jun.2004 14:21

let's make a list

What can we do together that's free and real and not just some gimmick to get our money or our souls?

Here's a list off the top of my head, but I bet there are other things. If you know of something cool, please list it here.

Hiking in Forest Park
Videos from the Resistance shows
Picnic with friends
Taking to the streets for fun and revolution

people's market 04.Jun.2004 14:35


I know that there is a community farmer's market there once a week....I think it is Wednesday. You get good produce right from the growers.

more stuff 04.Jun.2004 14:42

for the list

Hanging out at the river
Anarchist soccer (Is this still happening? If not, it should be.)
Dumpster diving with friends (You'd be surprised how many cool people you can meet out there)
Camping in the woods (but not in a named campsite, they cost $)

What else? Please list it all here.

or you could ... resist! confront! become the Peace Fleet 04.Jun.2004 15:01

Pink Emma

Another possibility is to go in protest and raise consciousness. Unless you've already given up ...

For those who haven't given up: There is a longstanding Portland Rose Festival tradition of the "pre-parade" - various groups parading along the parade route an hour or so before the Grand Floral Parade begins. Last year, Code Pink participate din the pre-parade. We made pink cardboard "boats" and marched the parade route as the "Peace Fleet" - with surprisingly positive reactions.

More info:
(scroll down to "Portland Rose Festival Actions")

Peaceships vs. Warships
Peaceships vs. Warships
Code Pink Peace Rose Parade
Code Pink Peace Rose Parade
Confront the Warmongers
Confront the Warmongers

Not giving up 04.Jun.2004 16:07

to pink emma

It's not a matter of giving up, emma. It's a matter of moving on. Don't get me wrong, if you want to do the parade thing, that's cool. I loved hearing about code pink's action last year. If you can stand it down there, go for it. But I will be staying far, far away from the rose festival, just like I always do. Not because I have given up, but because I am fighting the corporate-military-merchadising fest in the best way I know how: By turning my back on it. Without our cash, it will starve just like the rest of the capitalist beast.

Make Gay Pride a Rose Festival sanctioned event 04.Jun.2004 16:31

Dr. Qorq

It seems like Pride NW Inc.®, the promoter of the city's Gay Pride® events, is in a deeper financial hole. Here's the solution: sell Pride NW® to Rose Festival® Association, and there shall flow millions of dollars in corporate sponsorship and leveraged promotional capacity fully integrated with all the Rose Festival® events.

Coming in 2005: ClearChannel® Pride® NW Parade and Festival presented by Bud® Light
See you there!

(um, why do them gays like Bud® Light so much? Ick.)

What's a Public Utility Doing Sponsoring Anything? 04.Jun.2004 17:39

Curious George

I find it reprehensible that a monopolistic utility like PGE should be sponsoring anything. That's money taken out of our pockets which should be used to generate electricity and maintain their service network. Yet PGE seems to have lots of extra money to throw around on corporate salaries, heavy advertising against the formation of public utility districts, sponsoring a major parade, etc. etc. They could almost certainly lower our rates, or at least hold them down for awhile, if they were more fiscally responsible. NO UTILITY should be sponsoring ANYTHING.

thanks for this article 04.Jun.2004 23:06

it's great!

the hypocrisy of the rose fest and the media's ramming it down our throats is enough to make me ill.

i really like how the media turns (in unison) on the poorer people of our community whenever the festival comes around:

s. renee mitchell's bitchy 'friend' finds that 'homeless people in other cities are either under bridges or trying to get out of your way'. why do they get to use the public streets in portland?

the oregonian blames the homeless problem on dignity village because the camp is full and not taking any new people.

the helicopter news crew from channel 12 reports to the police a homeless camp they spotted from the air, just so they can get a 'scoop' reporting on the cops breaking it up. (yes this happened a couple of weeks ago.)

Why not... 04.Jun.2004 23:37

idea ida

..have the village building convergence or something like it during rose festival week? How about a city-wide series of block parties? Are neighborhood associations too chicken to schedule festivals the first week of june? We can do it without them easily-how about block parties with farmers markets, dancing, drum circles, art fair, etc.

Here is something to do at Rose Fest 05.Jun.2004 07:39

that is not corporate sponsored

Anti-War IS Anti-Corporate!

Protest the presence of Navy and Coast Guard warships at Portland's seawall during the Rose Festival - Saturday, June 12th, 1 to 3 pm, at the Salmon Street Fountain (SW Salmon and Front Ave.). Groups are encouraged to bring their banners and pro-peace handouts. For more info, call War Resisters League at 503-238-0605.

The cat adoption is valuable, and needed. 05.Jun.2004 10:47


Don't just throw out everything that's being done at the fest and ridicule it. When many millions of unwanted animals die and suffer each year, I don't care if it takes a corporation to bring some attention to it. If Purina were sponsoring info and help for homeless kids, would you include that info in your above article and ridicule that too?

Don't be fooled. 05.Jun.2004 15:56

to -

"If Purina were sponsoring info and help for homeless kids, would you include that info in your above article and ridicule that too?"

Yes. Get real. You think Purina is doing anything to help cats? Bullshit. They're preying on your soft heart, scamming on "customers." Who better to target for cat food sales than people interested in adopting a cat? Give em the cat, let em buy a lifetime of food. If they cared, Purina would not be one of numerous animal food corps that condones and conducts animal experiments.

Naive 06.Jun.2004 08:13

To -

>>If Purina were sponsoring info and help for homeless kids, would you >>include that info in your above article and ridicule that too?

What could be more exploitive and hypocritic than a giant transnational corporation trying to humanize themselves to customers by co-opting this kind of sentiment? It's gross and disgusting to be exploiting kittens for commercial gain, just as it would be gross and disgusting to exploit babies. Not that hundreds of corporations don't try cheap tricks like this, either.

community 07.Jun.2004 01:34


yeah yeah the corporations are evil...but without their sponsorship would there be an event like the Rose Festival where thousands come out of their homes and enjoy the company of their neighbors. We can talk for hours about things to do that are free and aren't yet co-opted by corporate sponsorship but the fact of the matter is that the everyday person is not going to do that. I feel that we desparately need community, and if it goes on a corporations bill let it, if that is what it takes to make it happen. Let's take advantage of the opportunity for community and good rather than shun it because it is not going to go away.

to "anonymous" 07.Jun.2004 09:42


"I feel that we desparately need community, and if it goes on a corporations bill let it, if that is what it takes to make it happen."

How sad. Indeed, we desperately need community. Real community. Believe it or not, it's not for sale. No, corporate sponsorship is not "what it takes to make it happen." Not only is it not what it takes, it's what destroys it. When every experience we have is mediated through our ability to cough up the cash, we are no longer interacting on an authentic level. We're buying a cheap substitute from a culture pimp.

(By the way, history is filled with fairs and festivals that brought people together, long before there was corporate sponsorship. Even the Rose Festival, as flawed as it's always been, was around before it became the Pepsi-Walmart-TacoBell-KGW Rose Festival.)