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Florence's Rhody Fest Sets Date for Oregon Coast Pageantry, Announces Theme

Published 01/13/23 at 6:39 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Florence's Rhody Fest Sets Date for Oregon Coast Pageantry, Announces Theme

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(Florence, Oregon) – It may be months away, but the buzz about the next Rhododendron Fest in the central Oregon coast town of Florence is already taking to the air. For 118 years now it's been a major attraction each May. (Courtesy photo)

Florence’s Chamber of Commerce just announced the theme for the 2023 installment: “Rip Roarin' Rhodies.” The chamber sent out a call for theme submissions and the winner was Brian D. Sandahl of Florence. Besides seeing his idea up in lights, the former Disney art director snagged this year's $100 prize.

“Rhody Fest” is the second-longest running floral festival in the entire state, and the oldest tradition on the Oregon coast. Portland’s Rose Festival is the longest. This time around, the prelude for all the fun, recreation, food and pageantry starts on Saturday, May 13, with the 6:30 p.m. coronation of Queen Rhododendra and the King of the Coast at the Florence Events Center. However, it's on May 18, at noon, when the festival opens in earnest as the Davis Shows Carnival begins its run at the Port of Siuslaw boardwalk.

The extended weekend also features the annual Rhododendron Society Rhody Show, daily carnival games and rides, the 5K and 10K Rhody Run/Walk; the Rods N Rhodies Classic Car Show and Shine, along with the Maple Street vendor fair in Old Town. Also taking place is the quilt show, and arts festival, live music, a junior parade, Pinewood Derby, and Sunday’s grand floral parade at noon on Sunday, May 21.

The 1920s idea is unique and fits in a lot of ways.

“It’s original and leaves lots of room for great logo development around the Roaring ’20s (both 1920’s and 2020’s versions), and for parade entries, the classic car and motorcycle shows, vendor areas, and other uses during our 116th annual festival,” said chamber president/CEO Bettina Hannigan.

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Sandahl has been a resident of Florence for two years and says that he is glad he no longer lives in the Los Angeles area. “Imagine getting stuck in traffic twice a day on a freeway 18 lanes across. I don’t miss that at all.” He added that after touring all of Oregon in search of a place to retire that it was the area’s slow pace, natural beauty, and the Florence Events Center, that captured his heart.

Sandhal says he “spent 25 years working for The Mouse” in Creative Entertainment at Disneyland and was the art director on the Haunted Mansion Holiday and It's A Small World Holiday attraction overlays, and the Christmas Fantasy parade. He was also responsible for the look of HalloweenTime at the Disneyland Resort plus many other designs that live on at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure.

“I am overjoyed that my theme of ‘Rip Roarin' Rhodies’ was selected, and it is my hope that some of my creativity and design thoughts might be put to use in the creation of this year’s festival logo. I like the alliteration, too. To me, it just sounds like a good time,” he said.

Locally, Sandahl designed last year’s Royal Rhododendron Court float for the Rhody Parade. He has done set design and directed productions for Florence’s Children’s Repertory of Oregon Workshops (CROW), having worked extensively with CROW’s Melanie Heard on theatrical productions in LA’s Inland Empire area prior to their respective moves north.

To learn more about the 116th Florence Rhododendron Festival, how you can volunteer for events, enter the parade, exhibit at the vendor fair, or get your supporting event listed, check the Events tab of the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce’s website or contact event coordinator Mitzi Hathaway, tourism development director, at 541-997-3128.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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