Posted by: MC | June 10, 2013

Human Parades: A Sampling (…read to the bottom)

Grand Ronde Float, Grand Floral Parade 6-8-13  mmc

Last Saturday, Portland Oregon had a clustering of human processions.  Every year this time the Rose Festival hits its climax with the Grand Floral Parade — the second largest floral parade in the nation next to Pasadena’s Rose Parade on January 1.  Typical to Oregon’s modesty and as true to its chutzpah, the Rose Festival was established a mere 17 years after the first parade in Pasadena way back in the first decade of the 20th century.  Then came Saturday morning, when 106 years later and thanks to the primary sponsorship of the Grand Ronde Tribe, 500,000 or so souls gathered once again to witness the display.  Band after band, sister city delegations from around the world — Zimbabwe, China, Mexico, Orgullo Morelense Cemiac Dance Group 6-8-13  mmcKorea, Taiwan, Italy, Israel,  Japan — 17 floats with every surface covered only with plant material (like artichokes and brussel sprouts to make the thick green skin of a giant alligator).  There were bedecked civic groups of all kinds, contingents both flashy and dignified from groups like  Rancho Tres Potrillos Mariachi Band and Dancers, the Indonesian Community, Lee’s Association Lion and Dragon Dancers, the Macleay Pipe Band, the Vietnamese Community of Oregon and the Orgullo Morelense Cemiac Dance Group.  The whole event was breathtaking as ever, but as it turned out it wasn’t the only pageant of the day.

But before I get to the others, I’ll  back up a bit.  Earlier Saturday morning, I walked through the cool morning sunlight with an especially excellent friend.  He was here from out of town and, by some mystery of planetary alignment had his birthday fall on this very day.  Realizing the coincidence, he was ready and willing to go with the buzz of the rose city’s biggest party as a natural extension to his birthday celebration.  We set out for the parade and right out the back door encountered the neighbors across the street, neither of whom have ever been to the parade.  Their enthusiasm for our adventure was no less sparkling.  That’s how they are.  Then a few steps later we crossed paths with the neighbor next door.  “Are you going to the parade?”  I called out.  “What parade?” he said.  Lots of people in Portland get amped for the annual event, but like people in Brooklyn who have never been to the Statue of Liberty (that’s actually LOTS of people), plenty of Portlanders have little interest in the commotion of it all.  Of the many thousands lining the route, many folks travel  from out of town, including families that drive RV’s in year after year to park on the streets.  Then there are the locals and visitors who have long histories of camping out on the sidewalks starting Thursday night so they can make certain to save prime viewing.  To be fair I’ll admit that I’ve certainly  missed my share of these Portland moments over the years, but regardless of any of that my friend and I were way into this year’s Grand Floral and after two full hours, ended up walking against the flow so we could see every singly bit.

What I’d forgotten (in a how could I? sort of way) was the Dragon Boat races we stumbled upon off the west shore of the Willamette.  Here’s a photo of one of the heats finishing a run. Dragon Boat Races June 8, 2013  mmc The boats are gifts from Portland’s sister city in Taiwan.  The teams that fill them practice all through the cold rains of winter and spring to compete.  Hundreds of people — athletes of every size, age, gender — fill these Taiwanese works of art and show major amazing amateur sports-skill moving them what looks to be about half a mile from under the I-5 Bridge north to the wide green bowl of the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.  Technically it’s a competition, but the Dragon Boat events have sufficient flare and pageantry to qualify as a parade.

You can probably imagine that by now my friend ,here from the wild reaches of Yellowstone, was happily satiated with birthday fanfare.  We were walking back into my neighborhood chatting about all we had seen when the text came in from the second neighbor we’d seen hours earlier.  His disinterest in the Grand Floral was, as it turned out, not entirely predictive of his attitude toward parades in general.  “Hi Mary, just fyi, I just learned the WORLD NAKED BIKERIDE is tonight.  We will see thousands of naked cyclists right on our street.”With thanks to David Burdick 6-8-2013

Well … “Wow” is only the mildest of expressions uttered by my Rocky Mountain friend.  And sure enough, when the chilly evening crested 10:30 p.m., the day ended with a procession of some 4000 folks in the buff on bikes, skateboards and in one case, in a shopping cart or, glowing with sweat, pushing it.

So, there you have it.  A veritable cascade of parades all on the same day in the same town, and fairly astounding forever one Montana man on his birthday.


  1. Mary, I think this one article explains your profound love of Portland.

    • So there they are on the bicycles. my, my!

      • MAma — you’re with us on the sidelines next year!!

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