The Rhododendron Festival Grand Parade’s turnout of entrants, May 18, was on the high end of its yearly average, according to Rhody Fest Association Vice President Lori Morris.
Morris estimated that each year’s Grand Parade tends to draw between 90 to 100 entrants, some of which include multiple individual members of an entrant organization.
“This year, we had 98, more than last year,” said Morris, who’s been part of Rhody Fest since her daughter was a princess in 2015. “That was the year the float burned. We wanted to make sure the next group of girls was covered, but we had such fun we just kept at it.”
Among this year’s notable entries in the Grand Parade was “Drink the Dragon,” by six local breweries taking part in the Rhody Fest’s beer garden, coordinated by Piper Corbett.
But what Rhody Festival Committee leader Debbie LaFollette really appreciated seeing was the number of entrants who took this year’s theme of “The Greatest Rhody” to heart.
“We had a lot of great showman and circus-themed entries,” LaFollette said. “It really unified the proceedings.”
Which is not to say this year’s Grand Parade didn’t feature the return of several familiar favorites as entrants.
“The Tenino Motorcycle Club always wows the crowd with its pre-parade show,” LaFollette said. “They roll onto the street about half an hour before we start. In the parade itself, everyone loves the Rakers Car Club and Ukuleles Unite are pretty popular. And of course, we wrap up with the Cake Picnic, promoting the start of the next event.”
While every Grand Parade is special to LaFollette, she’s been impressed by how much this year’s lineup “culminated in a variety of groups that excited everybody, while still maintaining the event’s continuity.”
Morris’ husband Bliss is an old hand at building, Rhody Fest floats by now, a process he says starts in October and continues with build-ups and tear-downs until the first parade of the season in April.
Morris and LaFollette agree that one of the aspects of the Rhody Fest they love most is how it involves the entire community, regardless of age.