The Portland Rose Festival is an annual civic festival held during the month of June in Portland, Oregon. It is organized by the volunteer non-profit Portland Rose Festival Association with the purpose of promoting the Portland region. It includes three separate parades, along with a number of other activities.
The idea for the Rose Festival was presented to the public in a speech by Mayor Harry Lane at the end of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in 1905. The first festival occurred in 1907.
The Grand Floral Parade is the centerpiece of the festival and the second largest all-floral parade in the United States after the Tournament of Roses Parade. More than 500,000 spectators line the route, making this flower parade the largest single-day spectator event in Oregon. The first parade, in 1907, was called the Rose Carnival, but eventually came to be known as the Rose Festival Parade and later still the Grand Floral Parade. The 1907 festival also included an "electric parade" with illuminated floats; this evolved into the Merrykhana Parade but after a two-season suspension was renamed the Starlight Parade in 1976.
Since 1930 a queen has been selected from a court of high school seniors from each school in the area. The members of the court are called princesses. For a brief period starting in 1997 they were officially called "ambassadors",but the term "princesses" was reinstated in January 2007. A college scholarship is awarded to a 14-member "royalty". Starting in 2009, the Rose Festival Foundation opened one place on the court to someone from a school outside the Portland city limits. There are drivers for the Princesses, who are chosen from each high school. The first African American driver (escort) was Sam Whitney from Benson High School in 1954. A Junior Rose Festival, focused on children, began unofficially in 1921, on the city's east side, and included its own parade and junior court. It became an official part of the Rose Festival in 1936. The festival's annual Junior Parade takes place in the city's Hollywood district. The Junior Parade has grown to an event involving nearly 10,000 children, making it the world's largest parade for children.
During Fleet Week, ships from United States Navy, Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the Royal Canadian Navy dock along the seawall of Tom McCall Waterfront Park.
The festival also hosts the Starlight Parade, a fireworks display, and carnival rides along the Portland waterfront, among other events. Dragon boat races on the Willamette River have been included every year since 1989.
An addition to the Rose Festival celebrations is Plunderathon, a pirate-themed roving festival that typically starts at Skidmore Fountain and is intended as a non-family-friendly way for locals to recover from the Rose Festival.
The Golden Rose Ski Classic is an annual ski race originating in 1936. It is the oldest known organized ski race in America, and is the only USSA-sanctioned summer race.
An air show was added to the Rose Festival in 1988 and remained part of the festival through 2002. Held at the Hillsboro Airport, it was named the Rose Festival Air Show, with the name generally preceded by a sponsor's name, but after the 2002 and 15th show the Rose Festival Association decided to discontinue its relationship with the event. In 2003, the show was reorganized as the Oregon International Air Show, with different sponsors and no longer a Rose Festival event