The 110th annual Rhododendron Festival begins Thursday, May 18, with the coronation of Queen Rhododendra and The King of the Coast, and continues through Sunday evening, May 21, with the grand floral parade beginning at noon on Sunday.

As a town, and as a Chamber of Commerce, we are “Always Ready to Rhody.” And this weekend’s weather looks to be fantastic for doing so. Come make it a day at the beach, or two, or a whole week!

The Siuslaw River Coast Guard Station is our inspiration for this year’s slogan. The Coast Guard’s slogan is Semper Paratus, or Always Ready, and they will be our grand marshal for the annual parade. The selection was easy. These brave men and women are celebrating the station’s 100 years of service in Florence.

The list of events for the celebration is long. There’s just too much to do in one day. You can download a free copy of the event brochure here.

The festival features a carnival, flower show, live music, a junior parade, motorcycle show, classic car show and cruise Saturday evening, arts and crafts shows, barbecues and pie sales, a royal court, and all the pageantry you’d expect from such a long-running, iconic event. Preliminary events begin Thursday and the carnival opens Wednesday afternoon.

Here’s a fun little fact that we like to wave around Oregon: The Rhododendron Festival is the second-oldest festival of its kind in the west, several years behind the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California, but just weeks older than Portland’s Rose Festival.

And because the Rhododendron Festival and great clam chowder historically go together, we’ve brought back that tradition—with a new twist. Those who buy and wear the official 2017 Rhododendron Festival pin can get a dollar off a bowl of clam chowder at a growing list of restaurants in Florence. The list currently includes ICM, Siuslaw Riverside, Le Bouchon, Bridgewater, Bay Street Grille, The Beachcomber Tavern, Firehouse, HomeGrown Public House, Bay View Bistro at Pier Point Inn, and the multi-award winning Driftwood Shores Surfside Restaurant.

The pin only costs $3, so we like to say “three clams gets you a buck off chowder.” Sales of the pins help fund scholarships for our Rhododendron Court. Pins are available at the Florence Visitor’s Center at 290 Highway 101.

For most people, Memorial Day weekend is often the beginning of the summer travel season; but we’re a step ahead of all the fun with Rhody Weekend. There’s always so much to do in and around Florence, and this weekend adds even more fun to this place we call Oregon’s Coastal Playground.

 So come see why Florence was just named the #2 Small Town in the Northwest by USA Today, Most Beautiful Town in America by Expedia.com, and Best Coastal Getaway by readers of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com.

For more information about the 110th Annual Rhododendron Festival, or to plan your vacation in Oregon’s Coastal Playground, contact Rosa Solano, event coordinator, at events@FlorenceChamber.com or 541-997-3128.