Florence Chamber Announces 2023 Rhododendron Festival Parade Grand Marshal
After announcing the theme for the resurrected Florence Rhododendron Festival, “Rip Roarin’ Rhodies,” the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce has selected local resident Mike Bones as the grand marshal for their annual floral parade.
“Mike Bones personifies this year’s ‘Rip Roarin’ Rhodies’ theme, said Bettina Hannigan, Florence Chamber president and CEO. He is tremendously gregarious with an infectious spirit, a lot of fun, and is known to many in these parts for his longtime interest and expertise with our famous flowers. He’s also a lot like our logo for this year–bright, colorful, beautiful, and he really pops.” “I was humbled into speechlessness, which is an unusual occurrence for me, after being completely surprised by being awarded the honor of Grand Marshal for the 2023 Rhododendron Grand Floral Parade.
I consider getting to be Grand Marshal high praise. I want to thank the Chamber Board for this privilege to represent our great town of Florence,” said Bones.
Bones is a 1966 graduate of Siuslaw High School and is their alumni association president.
He’s a Navy vet and former Oregon State park ranger, past Commander for the local American Legion post, and is a current board member who served more than 20 years as president of the Siuslaw Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society.
The chapter puts on the second largest rhododendron show in the world behind only Chelsea, England.
Bones is completing an 8-year term as the Oregon state representative for the American Rhododendron Society and serves as president of the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors.
He’s won international recognition for his interest in rhododendrons by being awarded the International Silver Medal for his accomplishments in educating others about the flowers, and for his years of dedication and service to the Siuslaw and American Rhododendron Societies. He and his wife Kathy were named Florence First Citizens in 2005 for their community service.
They founded Bones Nursery in 1978, specializing in rhododendrons and azaleas.
“With all his accolades and achievements, it’s his dedication to our festival that truly elevated Mike to grand marshal status this year,” said Hannigan.
“During Covid, when the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce was unable to host the Rhododendron Festival, Mike walked the parade route both years, pulling a wagon full of rhododendrons while waving to those passing by. He single-handedly kept the event alive through all that adversity.” “The festival, with its carnival, Rhododendron Court, parades, classic car cruise, vendor fair, and flower show serves as the unofficial kickoff to the summer tourist season here in Oregon’s Coastal Playground,” added 290 Highway 101, Florence, OR 97439 | FlorenceChamber.com | 541-997-3128 Hannigan.
“It’ll be another rip-roarin’ time as we celebrate our local natural beauty and famous flowers. We invite everyone to come enjoy the pageantry of the second-longest running floral festival in Oregon.” The festival opens the Saturday prior to the third weekend in May (May 13) with the coronation of Queen Rhododendra, the King of the Coast, and their royal court at the Florence Events Center; and with the Davis Shows Carnival at the Port of Siuslaw property in Historic Old Town.
Saturdays traditionally feature the annual 5K Rhody Run and Walk, the junior parade and kids’ activities, the annual Rhody Classic Car Show ‘n’ Shine, and the Coast Radio Classic Car Cruise through Old Town.
Sunday brings the grand floral parade down Highway 101 and into Historic Old Town starting at noon.
Throughout the event there will be a vendor’s fair in Old Town, a spectacular rhododendron show at the Florence Events Center, and live music, art, and other festivities and activities all over town. “Generations of families have enjoyed the annual Florence Rhododendron Festival by attending, enjoying the Davis Shows carnival, exhibiting their rhododendrons, showing off their classic cars and motorcycles, being in the parades, and shopping and dining in Old Town and all around town,” adds Hannigan.
“It’s a family tradition, an Oregon institution that has drawn generations of attendees.” 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.
For more information on the annual Florence Rhododendron Festival, including applications for exhibitor space, parade entries, or to volunteer on the Chamber’s Rhody Fest committee, contact event coordinator/director for tourism development Mitzi Hathaway at Events@FlorenceChamber.com or 541-997-3128.
Photo caption: Al Rojas, Chamber board chair; Beth Rudometkin, board member; Angela Nelson, board member; Mike Bones, Kathy Bones; Mitzi Hathaway, chamber director of tourism development, Rich Colton board member and marketing director for Three Rivers Casino Resort.
Photo credit: Florence Area Chamber of Commerce