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

community building

Float Decoration Falling Behind - Why?

The company that builds the 20+ major floats for the Grand Floral Parade is warning that they may not be completed as planned because there aren't enough volunteers to decorate them.
This evening's news aired a segment in which the company that builds the 20+ major floats for the Grand Floral Parade appealed for more volunteers to help decorate them. It warned that, if these volunteers did not materialize, the floats would not be completed in time for the parade.

There's something I don't understand here. Building these floats is a big business involving tens of thousands of dollars. Companies like the one in town that tackles the Grand Floral Parade floats also build floats for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade and others nationwide.

They are paid a LOT of money to do this job. Perhaps they would charge more if community volunteers didn't come in and finish the task, but should they rely upon free help and are they taking advantage of the community in doing so? Since these hard workers are volunteers, they are - by definition - not getting paid a cent of the thousands paid to the float staging company.

If the company contracts to provide a certain number of finished floats, built to specification, shouldn't they be able to guarantee that the floats will be ready on time and that their completion should not be contingent upon the work of volunteers? With the amount they are being paid, can't they factor in salary for workers to do the job?

In today's Rose Festival environment, floats have become larger and more complicated with each year that passes. This has pretty much made the "home built" float of community groups and small businesses a thing of the past. Small, home-built floats can't compete with the McFloats fielded by large corporations and professionally built. The small groups and businesses either do not enter a float because they can't afford it, or if they manage to get in, they cannot compete. This is directly comparable to other aspects of increasingly commercialized American life where money equals power and accessibility with no apologies. Today's politics does not welcome the average citizen without immense financial resources and backing.

Contrast the Grand Floral Parade with its megafloats and corporate domination with the St. Johns yearly neighborhood parade. This event is brought off entirely by community volunteers. Neighbors participate in the parade, set up the route, coordinate with the city, stage their own crafts fair, encourage local restaurants to set up streetside food booths, and the St. Johns Boy Scout troop capably, quickly, and courteously cleans up the streets and sidewalks afterwards. Attending the St. Johns Parade is like going back in time. Families gather happily at the curb to cheer their friends in costume, in antique cars, and in community groups. Old vets sit in the doorways with flags and children check out the fire engines and craftsmen. Nobody threw money into the street for kids to chase . . . the parade was simply the St. Johns Parade, not the (pick your corporate sponsor) St. Johns Parade. Simpler? Cruder? Perhaps. But this parade belongs to the community it takes place in.

When Portland bicyclists first fielded a Bike To Work Day in the 1970s and 80s, the City did not want to be a part of the organization or execution. The first Bike To Work events were organized by 1-3 people with a lot of energy who made contact with local bike clubs (chiefly the Portland Wheelmen), set up the rides, contacted local sponsors for food, and donated their time to make media contacts and promote the event. Bike Gallery generously paid for the posters each year; artists and photographers volunteered their services. Portland State University provided tables. Darigold, Flowers in Flight, and Boyd's Coffee were among the loyal supporters and donors and Pioneer Courthouse Square let the organizers stage the culminating music and snacks gathering (after the neighborhood rides had ended there) at no charge. Did we name the event after a sponsor? Never. These good people were content to have their names included on the promotional poster, in the press releases, and on a sign that was displayed in the square. These people were not volunteer slaves, called in to finish up the work of a well-paid company, but individuals who contributed in generous and creative ways because they believed in the event.

A community event doesn't have to cost a lot. It doesn't have to cost anything but time and energy. We've got ourselves into the mindset that says we must pay people to do things rather than do them ourselves. That things must be handled like a business (with salaried officers, consultants, and professionals) in order to be "good enough." The Rose Festival can't just "be" . . . it's not even good enough if it breaks even. It must be BIGGER and more people must profit from it for it to be "successful."

Such thinking further isolates community members who are put into the position of being passive consumers and spectators, rather than being part of creating Festival energy.

I don't know if there's any way to turn things around at this point; perhaps alternative festivals or activities centered in neighborhoods would be the answer. Just don't let any of them become too successful. If high rollers see money to be made, we won't own the new festivals any more, either.
Money, Money, Money 08.Jun.2004 19:18


Go to the Rose Festival Association's page and check out the "membership" categories:

"Platinum Rose" - $10,000 or more donation
"Diamond Rose" - $5,000 - $9,999 donation
"Golden Rose" - $500 - $999 donation
"Silver Rose" - $300 donation
"Portland Rose" - $150 donation
"Family" - $75 donation
"Individual" - $50 donation

A "Family" donation gets you: A membership card, a decal, four Members-only admissions to the Pepsi Waterfront Village valid anytime during the run, June 3-13; four free ride coupons good for Butler Amusements rides any time during the run; and an opportunity to purchase tickets to select (not all) Rose Festival events at a 10% discount.

Rose Festival courts corporate sponsors with the following information:

"Let Us Put One of the World's Top Festivals to Work for You!

"Rose Festival Highlights:

"More than two million people attend 60-plus events during this world-class celebration that generates $80 million annually for Oregon's economy.

"The International Festival & Events Association (IFEA) ranks the Rose Festival as one of the top 10 festivals in the world.

"IFEA recognized the quality of the Rose Festival by awarding it 14 Pinnacle Awards in 2002, one of the most honored organizations among 2,500 festivals and events in the Association.

"The Grand Floral Parade is ranked as the 2nd largest all-floral parade and the 4th best parade overall in the United States, according to USA TODAY.

"80% percent of attendees to all of events rate the quality of events as 'excellence[stet]/above average.'

"Sponsorship Benefits:

"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.

"Hospitality: enjoy top events at the VIP chalets; attend private receptions; receive premium tickets; and more.

"The Rose Festival marketing team is eager to work with you to tailor programs that fit your specific needs.

"Our Goals:

"Understand your business objectives and build event marketing strategies tailored to fit your needs.

"Be on call throughout the Festival to ensure your expectations are met and exceeded.

"Provide a comprehensive sponsor audit following the Festival to demonstrate our ability to deliver a strong return on your investment.

"We are happy to provide specific case studies and references from our sponsors. Thank you for your interest. We look for to working with you!

"For more information, please contact Jeff Curtis, Marketing Director.

"Grand Floral Parade Chalet Row:

"Enjoy the Southwest Airlines Grand Floral Parade from the privacy of your own chalet! Chalet Row will line MLK Jr. Blvd., in front of the Oregon Convention Center. This covered, unobstructed view has seats for 24 people. Treat your favorite clients, top performing employees and their families to a special experience at one of Portland's richest traditions... the Southwest Airlines Grand Floral Parade.

"Private 10' x 20' covered tent

"At least six additional feet of parade line frontage space

"Accommodates 24 people

"Unobstructed view of floats, bands and equestrian units

"Up to 12 secured, indoor vehicle parking passes at the Oregon Convention Center

"Catered breakfast (must be ordered and purchased through the OCC; $325 minimum order)

"Chalet Row opens at 8:00 a.m.

"For more information or to reserve your own private chalet for 2004 contact: Kristin Curtis at 503-227-2681."

Well, if you aren't a corporation, what's left for you to be involved in (other than a sheep to be fleeced)? You can enter the Rose Festival Southwest Airlines THEME competition, but better hurry, the deadline is June 15th:

You might win . . . wait for it . . . Southwest Airlines tickets or Rose Festival Merchandise! No cars, anymore.


Floats 08.Jun.2004 21:06


Tank McNamara (remember that sports cartoon?) once printed a trip that had me rolling on the floor. The commentators were talking about the various bowl games and Tank says, "Yeah, one year I was grand marshal for the Toilet Bowl . . . you don't wanna know about the floats."

Too true 08.Jun.2004 21:13

A has been

Well written, and well thought out. Unfortunately we live in a corporate world. Next we'll need to get 'sponsers' to have book groups or dinner clubs. It is ridiculous and I won't participate. I used to love to take my family to the Grand Floral Parade. As a kid I even marched in it and so did my own kids, but now we don't even go downtown during Rose Festival time. I'll spend my money locally where it counts!

Surviving the Festival 08.Jun.2004 23:49

Art Chenoweth

Longtime Portland resident Art Chenoweth has survived a few festivals.

In the early '70s, Alva Hacke, news photographer for KPTV, filmed an event at Rose Festival headquarters. As he folded his gear, he said, "The next time I come down here, it'll be to put the padlock on the door." Hacke was wrong, but he echoed a sentiment widespread in those tumultuous anti-establishment years. Today's sanitized press information book bears little hint of the strains and struggles the Festival faced in the '70s.

The fractious decade questioned every aspect of the Rose Festival. A state legislator, Wally Priestley, protested the Navy ships by floating downstream on the Willamette on an inflated inner tube. Priestley's tube got caught in a whirlpool, and the harbor patrol had to extricate him. During a princess selection at Wilson High School, principal Roy Malo declared in a private conversation that the festival had become an anachronism that should be abolished. Adams High School refused to nominate princesses for a while.

Emotional near-tragedy struck the Rose Court in this period, when a deaf student became a princess. Some people--not connected with Rose Festival officaldom--had assured her that she would become queen. When another princess was crowned, the deaf girl collapsed into tears and fled to a rest room, to be coaxed out by the court chaperone.

The traditional marching bands have also supplied drama. Thara Memory, the noted Portland musician, formed and drilled a marching band of inner city-kids. Festival officials declared the band not of sufficient quality. Memory was not to be denied. He positioned his kids at an intersection along the parade route. When a gap appeared in the parade lineup, he ushered his band in and they marched triumphantly to the end.

The present Starlight Parade was once the Merrykhana Parade, discontinued in 1973 for what the current press book calls "crowd control problems." Indeed there were. The problems were both water and firewater, enough of each to drive the city police out of their casabas. The water was messy but relatively harmless. Float riders squirted water at the crowd and the crowed reciprocated with squirt guns. One community float featured a long hollow arm that swung out over the crowd and dumped water. The water became dangerous when unknown persons began dropping plastic bags filled with ice from windows above.

But it was liquor that killed the Merrykhana. Alcohol flowed freely as the parade formed in the Park Blocks. By the time the parade began, many float drivers constituted moving hazards. An organization called the Junior Ad Club rode scooters as they judged the floats, and one judge crashed a scooter headlong into a fence.

Turbulent as the '70s were, there were celebrities who left lasting fond impressions. Betty White served as lead commentator for the Grand Floral Parade telecast for several years. On or off camera, White not only demonstrated the highest professional competence but also radiated a warm persona that won everybody over.

Interestingly, Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the first grand marshals of the revived night parade. Too many girls rushed up begging for kisses, though. Schwarzenegger would ignore the obvious sexpots who flung their bodies at him, but bestowed kisses on shy young girls who probably were coming up on a dare from their curbside friends. Arnold made many new friends that night.

Our innocent Brit intern is sent into Rosaria.

When the WW intelligentsia suggested I visit the Portland Rose Festival celebrations at the weekend, there was a certain mischievous glint in its collective eye. Having arrived from the U.K. in March, I believe I'm what's known as a new fish in a small pond, and it seems this assignment was conceived as a baptism in the mythical waters of "real America."
I was definitely up for it. In truth, I had felt sold short by Portland's citizens thus far--I was not seeing the "realness" I'd seen on TV. Instead of the morbidly obese, obnoxious Yanks I'd excitedly looked forward to gawping at, I had been greeted by a sea of Nalgene flask-toting, bookish New Age types and a small group of "punks" more Avril Lavigne than Sid Vicious. How could this be the same country that calls Dubya "Mr. President"?

First stop on the Real America safari: the Pepsi Waterfront Village. The conspicuous presence of a multinational corporate sponsor for this fun fair immediately filled me with expectation, and I wasn't disappointed. Each mullet, weak chin, potbelly and monobrow on show had a little more pep than any I'd seen before. The fun fair itself offered few surprises. Along with a varied assortment of rides and roller coasters--designed to separate patrons from the cash in their wallets and the food in their stomachs--there was a plethora of stalls offering the chance to win oversized (of course) stuffed toys.

I had hoped to be tempted into trying my luck (odds: about 1 in 14 million) at one of these stalls, but the classic sirenlike carnie banter was nowhere to be heard. Seemingly, the loudmouth carnie of lore has been usurped by laconic Latinos. Perhaps the original carnival folk have retired on their vintage-trucker-hat fortunes? No such ironic millinery on show at the Pepsi village, however, where young men reproduce the Malibu's Most Wanted look and the girls just dress to reproduce.

Saturday's Starlight Parade had a much more wholesome feel. I have never understood people's enthusiasm for parades, my own experience limited to a childhood trip to Disney World and the recurring stories in the British news of ungracious sectarian marches in Northern Ireland. However, the scene repeated all over downtown Portland, of families lining the streets, their children playing together and happily drawing in chalk over the roads, was genuinely idyllic.

In the hours prior to the parade, these families bonded and the crowd stopped to cheer on the runners in the Starlight Run, which featured some peculiarly costumed entrants. I counted two Jesuses (Jesi?), each carrying pretty hefty-looking crosses. The scale and polish of the parade was a surprise, and the evening did provide a few things to write home about. The 250-pound, chain-smoking lady next to me, who exclaimed "Get a good picture, he's a legend" as Ronald McDonald passed by in a giant shoe, was, at last, "real America." My trip had not been in vain.

(originally published in WILLAMETTE WEEK 6/4/2003)

What Floats Your Float 09.Jun.2004 21:38

The Shadow

I say bail on the free decoration and let the Rose Fest Association sue the pants off the float people when unfinished, tattered floats go on display on Saturday.

"take me down to the rose parade" 10.Jun.2004 18:59


At 6 am June 10th three organizations that combine to make up the Right to Sleep Alliance pitched a spot at 4th and Pine to wait to watch the Rose Parade. Under the guidance of Robert Faith they were told they could stand next to the building that is currently vacant but, owned by the Embassey which he manages at night. Around the same time according to 'Terry' a Clean & Safe 'officer' named Lewis was very polite and told them they could wait for the Parade by the sidewalk away from the building if they did not obstruct traffic. People making the stand and risking a fine or 6 months in jail produced a card from L.K Vaught who was with Clean & Safe who also said they could be there as long as they were away from the vacant building they were told to stand near.
According to Portland LAW, "unless specifically authorized by ordinance" they are in direct violation of PCC 14A.50.030 which roughly translates into deeming human beings into "obstructions" that are "nuisances".
Portland Law is wrong.

The Right To Sleep Alliance is Dignity Village, Sisters of the Road Cafe and Street Roots according to Genny Nelson the co-founder of the Cafe. Meetings are held 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at 3:30 pm at Street Roots on 1231 SW Morrison and open to anyone who stills believes in basic human rights. "Clean Sweeps" are not breaking news to anyone. It happens every year to 2/3 of the homeless population that can't get into shelters at night. They are usually pushed farther into the cracks, unseen. THIS year people may have been pushed to far and with the involvement of the community we could watch the Rose Parade ALL together on Saturday. Portland Cops like Sickon who tend to get "very rude" according to witnesses could force this small band to disipitate into the night but, with the community watching they may have hope.