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Rhododendron Fest Returns to Oregon Coast in May, 116 Years in Florence

Published 12/13/21 at 6:02 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Rhododendron Fest Returns to Oregon Coast in May, 116 Years in Florence

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(Florence, Oregon) – A much-beloved tradition on the central Oregon coast will make its way back to Florence in May, with the return of the 116th Rhododendron Festival on May 18 – 22 after being canceled and reshuffled during the last two seasons because of the pandemic.

Bettina Hannigan, president and CEO of the Florence Chamber, said the festival will be back in full gear with the carnival, Rhododendron Court, parades, classic car cruise, vendor fair and flower show.

“We can't wait to be ‘back in bloom',” she said.

This year, Florence held a contest to figure out its theme. “Back in Bloom” was the winning entry, submitted by Howard Cusack of Florence.

“I am thrilled to make a contribution to the Chamber's always superlative efforts to present an event that merges Americana, culture, art, and commerce with our amazing and unique floral landscape,” said Cusack. “I learned very early in my career as a concert producer that that the keys to a successful show are a great lineup and a relevant branding name. For example, in the summer of 1976, during our country's bicentennial, I produced an event featuring Electric Light Orchestra, Steve Miller Band, Heart, J Geils, and several others. We called it The Freedom Jam and it caught the attention of a nation and drew 80,000 people from all over.”

In this case, Cusack explained he'd tried to create a slogan that was simple, direct and immediate – as well as memorable.

“There's no doubt that the community has sorely missed both the event and the celebration of our legendary rhodys so I was after something that might be a reminder of the rebirth of the festival,” Cusack said.

The Florence Rhododendron Festival was canceled for the first time since World War II during the pandemic, something Hannigan says makes Cusack's pick that much more potent of a message.

“I think it will lend itself to lots of fun and creativity for our parades, civic displays, auxiliary events, and especially our marketing.” she said.

Generations of families both local and from around the state have made the annual Florence Rhododendron Festival their pilgrimage by attending. There have been the Davis Shows carnivals, people exhibiting their rhodys and showing off their classic cars and motorcycles, and those who were a part of the parades.

“It's a family tradition, an Oregon institution,” Hannigan said.

The Florence Rhododendron Festival is Oregon's second-oldest floral festival, bested only by a year by the Portland Rose Festival, and sees thousands of visitors from around the state and across the country.

For more information on the annual Florence Rhododendron Festival, including applications for the Rhododendron Court, exhibitor space, parade entries, or to volunteer on the Chamber's Rhody Fest committee, contact event coordinator Mitzi Hathaway at Events@FlorenceChamber.com or 541-997-3128.

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