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Florence's Rhody Fest: Famed Oregon Coast Event Goes Virtual

Published 05/09/2020 at 12:24 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Florence's Rhody Fest: Famed Oregon Coast Event Goes Virtual

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(Florence, Oregon) – This year’s 113th Rhododendron Festival was set to happen at the end of May, but circumstances had other plans, causing the Florence Chamber of Commerce to cancel the annual party. It’s the first time since World War II the event was shut down.

The theme was to be “Blast from the Past” for the Grand Floral Parade, but now it’s decidedly futuristic. The famed central Oregon coast parade goes online this time around, happening on Facebook on May 17 at noon.

In addition, the Chamber, in partnership with Three Rivers Casino, is hosting an online “Blast From The Past” exhibit of photos contributed by the public of recent and historic Rhododendron Festivals. Florence Habitat for Humanity will host the annual Rhody Run as a virtual event and fundraiser.

Various videos from member organizations and local businesses will be edited together into a full-length parade. Exactly how it will be done will be quite varied from participant to participant, undoubtedly yielding numerous creative surprises. Organizers don’t have all the videos as yet, but they have asked for footage that makes it look like a parade with the themes of rhododendrons and “Blast from the Past.”

There is normally the Rhody Run, but this time it will be different: purely digital and with social distancing in mind. The Oregon coast fun run has said “you can run, jog, or walk on the road, on the trail, on the treadmill, or on the track (or even ride your bike) from the location and time of day you choose on May 16 or May 17. You get to run your own race, at your own pace, and time it yourself.”

Post a selfie on our Florence Habitat for Humanity Facebook page during your run or of your results from your run. To enter, they suggest a donation of $20 be made at the website. For more information, including availability of commemorative t-shirts, call 541-902-9227.

This time around, the Chamber and Three Rivers Casino Resort are asking the public to share their favorite Rhody Days photo memories - both old and new - and enter for a chance to win prizes. Winners will be chosen from every decade. Those photos will then move on to final judging, to determine the overall best "Blast from the Past" photo. To enter, post photos at this Facebook link before Thursday, May 14, at 5 p.m.

Bettina Hannigan, executive director of the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Rhododendron Festival makes the single largest economic impact on the central Oregon coast town's tourist-driven economy and serves as the kick-off to the tourism season.

“We took the utmost consideration in trying to balance protecting our community’s health with the needs of our local tourism-based economy,” said Hannigan. “We are a chamber of commerce and Rhody Fest brings our small businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in commerce. Around 1900 people in Florence rely on tourism-based employment, and tourism pumps about $147 million into our community each year. We cannot wait to welcome visitors back as soon as any restrictions are lifted to come enjoy all that Oregon’s Coastal Playground has to offer.”

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.

“Generations of families have enjoyed the annual Florence Rhododendron Festival by attending, enjoying the Davis Shows carnival, exhibiting their rhodies, showing off their classic cars and motorcycles, being in the parade, and shopping and dining in Old Town and all around town,” adds Hannigan. “It’s a family tradition, an Oregon institution. And it’s heartbreaking to have to cancel it this year so we’re hoping for a great virtual turnout for our online version this year.”


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