Design firm Ziba suggests chucking the rose theme altogether.
The public relations maestros at Ziba Design, the firm behind the transformation of Umpqua Bank from a stodgy old-school lender to a sleek, modern bank, have a few suggestions. In order to return to what made the Rose Festival a true Portland celebration, Ziba’s executive creative director Steve McCallion says, the event would do well to return to its original vision: Keep the parade, but ask the community to help create it.
That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, clinging nostalgically to last-century notions of beauty. If McCallion had his way, he’d chuck the rose theme altogether, for, as Ziba founder Sohrab Vossoughi puts it, “Who cares about roses anymore? It’s not roses that are bringing people here.” Then McCallion would rebrand the event as the Portland Festival, with MarchFourth Marching Band leading the parade (local architecture and design firms could create the floats), and the City Repair Project—a nonprofit that builds spaces that encourage community interaction—running the carnival down at the waterfront. Alternatively, McCallion says, if the rose theme were kept, organizers should send out a call to local gardeners and re-create that first community-made parade.
The thing is, organizers tried that already. In 2003, float maker Dent broadcast public service messages urging gardeners to donate flowers for a community float, but he didn’t receive anywhere near the thousands of blooms that rolled in back in 1907. He received less than 100—all of them from six people.
“It’s harder and harder to get people to volunteer,” Dent says. “People are busier than they used to be.”
Which seems to suggest that perhaps it isn’t the Rose Festival that’s lost touch with the community. Maybe the festival’s fractured focus is simply a reflection of today’s citizens: A population of arrivistes like me, who might claim to have been drawn to this city for its DIY spirit, its local loyalty, and its civic activism, but who, when asked to cut roses from our gardens—never mind take the time to help build floats or, God forbid, actually come to the curb and watch the parade—would rather simply ignore it.