Rhody Reunion

87th annual Grand Parade to bring celebration, commemoration back to town | Rhody Fest

Posted 5/19/22

For locals, it’s relatively easy to notice when the Rhododendron Grand Parade is around the corner.

Whether it’s the rows of chairs reserved on Lawrence Street by residents looking to …

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Rhody Reunion

87th annual Grand Parade to bring celebration, commemoration back to town | Rhody Fest

Posted

For locals, it’s relatively easy to notice when the Rhododendron Grand Parade is around the corner.

Whether it’s the rows of chairs reserved on Lawrence Street by residents looking to get the best parade vantage point or the blossoming, pink rhododendron flowers — the official flower of Washington state — lining scenic parts of Port Townsend, the parade exemplifies the community spirit of the people of Port Townsend.

This year’s parade, set to start at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 21 in Uptown’s Lawrence Street and conclude on Water Street downtown, will celebrate a blossoming Port Townsend and the rebirth of spring in more ways than one. The coronavirus pandemic minimized the scale of the parade and festival in 2021 after it was cancelled in 2020. But this year, Rhody Week is back in full scale.

“It’s 87 years old this year and it’s pretty cool that [the Rhody Festival and Grand Parade] has been able to keep going,” said Melanie Bozak, a key organizer of the festival’s parade. “It’s like this big, giant community reunion; a family reunion if you will.”

A cluster of parade floats will crowd the streets of Uptown for Saturday’s main event. Classic floats such as the Port Townsend Kiwanis’ train and entries holding the Rhody Royalty of princesses, kings, and queens will promenade through the streets. Along with the classics, an assembly of healthcare workers including nurses, EMS workers, and other related staff will walk with the procession as organizers wanted to pay homage to their sacrifices and commitment to helping those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.   

“We invited every single kind of medical staff to come out,” Bozak said.

Although Rhody Week provides a plethora of events, the Grand Parade is perhaps the crowning event as locals, visitors, and everyone else converges for a proper send-off.

“I love the grand parade. It’s a culmination of everything we do that week,” Bozak said.

“It’s just fun watching the kids on the sides of the street, and there’s just something about a festival for me that brings out the best in people. You get to see your neighbors and everyone smiling and having a good time.”

The Rhody Festival as a whole comprises a deep history as a cardinal hub of community, starting in 1935 after local businessman Clive Buttermere convinced a film crew to come out to Jefferson County and film the gorgeous, wild rhododendron flowers that lined the Peninsula in full bloom. Almost a century later, the Rhody Festival has carried on each year to represent and celebrate a time of nature in its full florescence.

The festival is even considered as the annual event that the local community favors most, according to a survey conducted by the Port Townsend Main Street Program.

Although COVID put the parade to a grinding halt in 2020, with a smaller parade in 2021, Bozak and other Rhody organizers are excited to pave the way for the continuation of the festival for years to come.

“It’s a cornerstone; it’s something people look forward to year after year and people come back to,” Bozak said. “A sense of community is the best way to describe it.”

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