Port Townsend gets ready for return of Rhody Fest

Posted 5/11/22

“It’s Rhododendron, not Rhodydenron” reads a Leader headline about a month before the 1950 Rhody Fest.

While it has been awhile since Port Townsend has had the real deal …

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Port Townsend gets ready for return of Rhody Fest

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“It’s Rhododendron, not Rhodydenron” reads a Leader headline about a month before the 1950 Rhody Fest.

While it has been awhile since Port Townsend has had the real deal festival, longtime residents likely haven’t forgotten what’s in store. In just over a week, all the traditions and favorites return to the streets of Port Townsend for the 85th Rhody Festival celebration.

This year’s theme is a little bit tongue-in-cheek after the 2020 COVID-19 cancellation and stand-alone August 2021 parade of the same theme — “Stop and Smell the Rhodys — Again.”

Business owners and donors are thrilled to see this historic event return and brighten the streets.

“As a kid growing up here, the  Rhody  Festival was the highlight of the year,”  said Abbie Little of Bell Tower Brokers. “It is a festival that feels like a celebration for and by those that live here. I want it to live on!” The excitement in town is palpable as residents prepare for traditional events, like the Pet Parade, at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19, or the Kiddie Parade, at 2 p.m. Friday, May 20.

Laina Amerson, a broker at Coldwell Banker Best Homes, said she’s looking forward to introducing her kids to some festival past-times.

“I can’t wait to share my favorite  Rhody  traditions with my kids who are finally old enough to remember it. Even when I didn’t live in town, I’d always come back for  Rhody, especially when I had kids,” Amerson recalled.

“My youngest is 3 — she has never fully experienced the parades and the festivities. The town turns magical for the week.

“The sun comes out. Everything is green and blooming and the whole town is sunburnt. I can’t wait,” she added.

Businesses are readying their floats for the Grand Parade and men are letting their beards grow long for the weekend Rhody Vice President Mary Crozier describes as “‘Pleasantville,’ but after they start seeing color.”

This year’s Rhody Fest starts with events on Wednesday, May 18 and the celebration really gets rolling with the ever-popular Trike Races at 4 p.m.

Karen Best, owner of Coldwell Banker Best Homes, is a proud sponsor of the Grand Parade, which is set to begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 21 by the Uptown firehouse.

Best supports the legacy of Rhody Fest, saying it “embodies the beauty, tenacity, and spirit of Port Townsend and Jefferson County.”

The Grand Parade will also include the grand marshals, who will head up the parade with a banner reading, “2022 Grand Marshal — Honoring Our Local Healthcare Heroes and Angels.”

Grand marshals this year are any and all local medical staff from administrators to doctors and EMS staff.

“They’ve protected and served us so willingly with compassion and caring . . . those on the medical community front-lines have gone far and above their regular schedule and duties to keep us as healthy as possible,” said Melanie Bozak, Grand Parade Chair.

The only thing missing this year: the carnival.

For numerous reasons, the carnival will not be coming to town for 2022.

To fill that void, the New Old Time Chautauqua will enliven town on its 40th anniversary, set to gather at Fort Worden, Pope Marine Park, and Uptown from May 20-May 22. New Old Time Chautauqua will feature  performances, community, cultural, and civic events with a myriad of informative and participatory workshops.

Rest assured, the other oddities and delights will also grace the streets during the four-day shindig, including the Bed Race at 6 p.m. Friday, May 20, followed by the Hair and Beard Contest, also May 20, with registration at 5:15 p.m. and judging at 5:30 in front of the American Legion on Monroe Street. Some of the awards are longest hair, best-groomed beard, and Rhody sprit.

The community can also get involved and active by joining the Jim Caldwell Memorial Rhody Open Golf Tournament at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 21 or running in the Rhody 5k at 9 a.m. Sunday, May 22.

The Sunrise Rotary Running of the Balls is
12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2 by the Legion and the Elks Lodge Spaghetti Feed will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 21.

Rhody volunteers have been thrilled with the generosity of sponsors, businesses, and individuals “not only in a dollar donation, but the enthusiasm and general awe that our Rhody parade has come back to town. Maybe it has changed in some ways due to COVID-19, but the enthusiasm and goodwill is transparent.”

The Rhody team would like to thank a handful of longtime sponsors as well that were integral in bringing back fan favorites this year: Sunrise Rotary Club for the Trike Races, Safeway for the Pet Parade, Port Townsend Kiwanis Club for the Kiddie Parade, and the Kinetic Sculpture Race for the Bed Races/Hair & Beard Contest.

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