Virtual Parade and 5K, Photo Contest Announced

The City of Florence and the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce announced today that they are moving the “Blast From the Past”-themed 113th Rhododendron Festival Grand Floral Parade online. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Chamber announced April 1 that this year would mark the first time since WWII that the actual event has been cancelled.

In addition, the Chamber, in partnership with Three Rivers Casino, is hosting an online “Blast From The Past” exhibit of photos contributed by the public of recent and historic Rhododendron Festivals. Florence Habitat for Humanity will host the annual Rhody Run as a virtual event and fundraiser.

The virtual parade will premiere on Facebook on Sunday, May 17, at noon.

Organizers are asking community members, organizations, and local businesses to upload short videos or photos for them to edit into a full-length parade. They hope to receive entries that use the Blast From the Past theme, rhododendrons from entrants’ yards, and other materials to make it look like a parade entry. Creativity is encouraged.

They also ask that videos are recorded from home with the camera held horizontally and people walking or driving past the camera, right to left, as if in a parade. Decorated cars, bikes, wagons, scooters, horses, people in costume or with signs, family marching bands, or dance routines are all welcome. Videos of people sitting or standing along a curb watching, waving, and cheering entrants are also requested. Awards will be given in a variety of categories.

Submit your photo or video clip of 15 to 20 seconds (or less) by 8:00 p.m., Thursday, May 14, 2020, to RhodyParade2020@gmail.com. For full details on how to submit your virtual parade entries, visit www.ci.florence.or.us/community/2020-rhody-parade.

For the annual Rhody Run a post at FlorenceHabitat.org explains that “you can run, jog, or walk on the road, on the trail, on the treadmill, or on the track (or even ride your bike) from the location and time of day you choose on May 16 or May 17. You get to run your own race, at your own pace, and time it yourself. All while social distancing. Post a selfie on our Florence Habitat for Humanity Facebook page during your run or of your results from your run.” To enter, they suggest a donation of $20 be made at the website. For more information, including availability of commemorative t-shirts, call 541-902-9227.

The Chamber and Three Rivers Casino Resort are asking the public to share their favorite Rhody Days photo memories—both old and new—and enter for a chance to win prizes! Winners will be chosen from every decade. Those photos will then move on to final judging, to determine the overall best “Blast from the Past” photo. To enter, post photos at https://www.facebook.com/events/536049653700168/?active_tab=about before Thursday, May 14, at 5 p.m.

According to Bettina Hannigan, executive director of the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce, the Rhododendron Festival makes the single largest economic impact on Florence’s tourist-driven economy and serves as the kick-off to the tourism season.

“We took the utmost consideration in trying to balance protecting our community’s health with the needs of our local tourism-based economy,” said Hannigan. “We are a chamber of commerce and Rhody Fest brings our small businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in commerce. Around 1900 people in Florence rely on tourism-based employment, and tourism pumps about $147 million into our community each year. We cannot wait to welcome visitors back as soon as any restrictions are lifted to come enjoy all that Oregon’s Coastal Playground has to offer.”

The Florence Rhododendron Festival is Oregon’s second-oldest floral festival, bested only by a year by the Portland Rose Festival, and sees thousands of visitors from around the state and across the country.

“Generations of families have enjoyed the annual Florence Rhododendron Festival by attending, enjoying the Davis Shows carnival, exhibiting their rhodies, showing off their classic cars and motorcycles, being in the parade, and shopping and dining in Old Town and all around town,” adds Hannigan. “It’s a family tradition, an Oregon institution. And it’s heartbreaking to have to cancel it this year so we’re hoping for a great virtual turnout for our online version this year.”