Marchers proceed along the route of the Rose Festival's Starlight Parade. Courtesy of Portland Rose Festival Foundation

Portland’s historic Rose Festival celebrates its 115th anniversary

After two years of pandemic restrictions, the Festival marks a complete return

After two years of pandemic-related concerns and restrictions on public gatherings, the annual Portland Rose Festival will be back in full swing, with concerts, festivals and other community events. The 2022 Rose Festival will represent the event’s 115th anniversary and will be marked by a complete return to in-person events.  


“As we have seen already this year, people are ready to come out of their personal isolations and lockdowns and celebrate, play and discover the world all over again,” said Rich Jarvis, the public relations manager for the Portland Rose Festival Foundation. “Especially after these last couple of years, people are really ready for the Rose Festival and it’s our job to make sure the festival is ready for the people.” 


This year’s Rose Festival will include some long-held traditions along with some new events. Jarvis said that each year the festival strives “to renew, reinvent and rebuild to stay relevant and current with people’s interests, while holding on to our traditional elements that make the festival unique to Portland.”


A new part of this year’s festival will be the Rose City Reunion Concert featuring the Oregon Symphony, which will perform on the evening of May 26, the day before the official kickoff. The Rose Festival’s website describes this concert as featuring “the world premiere of ‘From One Rose’, an original song written by Rose Festival board member Ron Carr and arranged by Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated composer Bruce Broughton.” Additionally, “Associate Conductor Norman Huynh will lead the Oregon Symphony in performing a range of songs from John Williams and some other popular orchestral pieces.”


Opening night on May 27, at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, will feature live music, food, drink, carnival rides and a fireworks show, which has been a historic tradition for the festival. Memorial Day weekend will mark the beginning of the Rose Festival Treasure Hunt, a tradition started in 1983, in which a Rose Festival medallion is hidden on public property. Daily clues will be released on the festival’s website. The first treasure seeker to find the medallion will also receive a prize package. 


Another established tradition is the crowning of a Rose Festival queen, which has been a central event since the festival’s inception. This year, the court of princesses includes students from two high schools not previously represented in the court—Adrienne C. Nelson High School and Jesuit High School.

One of the Rose Festival’s pop-up amusement park rides along Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Courtesy of Portland Rose Festival Foundation

Three parades will be included as part of the festival: the CareOregon Starlight Parade, the Fred Meyer Junior Parade and the Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade. The Grand Floral Parade is known for being the only parade in the U.S. that starts indoors, with its kickoff happening each year inside the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The route this year has been reduced to approximately two miles due to limited city resources for providing police support and presence. All three parades will be broadcast live by Fox 12 Plus.


Fans of racing will be excited to hear this year welcomes the return of the NASCAR Xfinity Racing series. 


“Racing has always been a part of the festival since the streets were dirt paths, but the big car events faded away for a time,” Jarvis said. “They are making a push to get back to the fans in the Northwest and we are happy they are partnering with the festival for this event.”


While the 2022 Rose Festival’s return to in-person events marks an important milestone in returning to some sense of normalcy after the pandemic, it remains to be seen how many attendees will be comfortable joining the large crowds associated with the Festival. 


On May 16, 2022, the CDC moved Multnomah County’s COVID-19 Community Level from low to medium. As of writing, 78.9% of Oregon’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. On May 20, 2022, Multnomah County tweeted “#COVID cases are on the rise again.”


According to the CDC’s website, “COVID-19 Community Levels are a new tool to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.” 


As of this writing, it will be up to each visitor’s discretion whether to mask up or not at the Rose Festival. Behind the scenes, the Rose Festival is staying up-to-date on guidance from health officials. 

A clown float crosses the Burnside bridge at the Rose Festival’s Grand Floral Parade. Courtesy of Portland Rose Festival Foundation

“The world changes, so we have to be flexible and fluid in our work goals and expectations,” Jarvis said. “We do coordinate with county and state health professionals on the latest info and guidance regarding the COVID-19 best health practices. We also coordinate with the city and other essential personnel on safety issues regarding large gatherings for the parades and CityFair.”


For the most up-to-date information on the 2022 Portland Rose Festival and to purchase event tickets, visit their website,