The Leader offers these snapshots of the Rhododendron Festival throughout the decades, highlighting its individual events.
A Rhododendron Queen and her royal court of princesses is the oldest festival tradition dating back to the first official Rhody Queen Myrtle Olsen in 1936
Olsen won her crown by garnering nearly 500,000 votes
It is a Leader tradition to print the Rhody Queen on the front page when she is crowned
Today Rhody royalty are selected based on their participation in a question-and-answer session with a panel of judges and their performance at the Rhody Coronation Ceremony
The 2020 Rhody royalty will be the first court to reign for two years, since festival was canceled this year.
Kids and students at local schools each have the opportunity to stand out during the annual Kiddies Parade, during which creative costumery is the order of the day.
Kiddies Parade categories have included preschool, public school composed of grades K-4 and miscellaneous youth groups; sports; “original and unique;” and yearly themed categories such as “Disney and Storybook” for 2018, when the Rhody Fest theme was “Off to Neverland.”
Church groups, youth gymnastic academies and alternative schools go all-out in constructing multiple floats and dressing up large groups of adults and children in appropriately themed costumes.
The Pet Parade lines Lawrence Street in Uptown Port Townsend with a wide enough variety of animals to feel like the loading line for a domestic ark.
In addition to recognizing the “Best Decorated,” the Pet Parade has separate categories for “unusual pets,” rabbits, large animals, cats and kittens, and small, medium and large dogs, escorted by all ages of owners.
Chickens came home to roost in record numbers in the 2015 Pet Parade, which led to the creation of a separate category for chickens and birds in 2016.
While horses, ponies and goats have placed in the large animals category, the “unusual pets” category has drawn entrants as diverse as turtles and tortoises, insects, snakes, pythons, boas and reptiles as obscure as blue-tongued skinks.
The local chapter of 4-H has had no shortage of representatives in the Pet Parade, especially with its reptile and poultry clubs.
While exact dates are unknown, Rhody Fest organizers believe the Bed Races began in the 1970s.
Often drawing three teams of four runners and one rider each, whom judges require to weigh at least 100 pounds, the Bed Races have seen frequent wins from East Jefferson Fire-Rescue, which managed a three-year winning streak from 2013 through 2015.
Groups such as Kiwanis and QFC have also entered multiple races within the past decade.
Besides race performance, teams have received awards for “Most Spirited,” “Best Decorated” and “Best Bribe,” and the races themselves have included obstacles such as mid-lap charade games.