Port Townsend Rhododendron Festival to begin 70th run

PORT TOWNSEND — For Christy Spencer, the 70th annual Rhododendron Festival has special meaning.

She and her Rhododendron Festival co-president, Shawna Smith, are part of the festival’s long line of royalty alumni — Spencer a princess in 1987 and Smith the 1999 event’s queen. Both are Port Townsend High School graduates.

“I am one of the people that really really looks forward to the Rhody Fest each year,” said Spencer.

“I enjoy the parade. I enjoy the events, and working with the royalty.

“So for me it’s a way to give back to the community.”

The festival, dedicated to the official state flower that blooms into spectacular colors this time of year, kicks off this weekend in its usual grand style with and arts and crafts fair this Saturday and Sunday at Jefferson County Memorial Athletic Field downtown.

Buildup to the big parade

The festival, with the theme, “A Touch of Elegance,” leads up to the May 21 Rhody Festival Grand Parade, in which Spencer says there are more than 100 entries this year.

The parade, which winds its way through Port Townsend’s downtown and uptown districts, is hosted by this year’s Rhody Fest royalty, Queen Magdalena Quintana and Princesses Sarah Lake and Alisha Blake.

The royalty receive scholarship funds and make appearances at festivals and parades around the state in the coming year.

The parade kicks off at 1 p.m. May 21 and includes high school marching bands from all over the North Olympic Peninsula and state.

Earlier events

The coming week’s events include this year’s royalty placing their handprints at Haller Fountain downtown at 3 p.m. Monday, and a Centennial Rhododendron Garden opening at 4 p.m. Monday at Fort Worden State Park.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Royalty Trike Races for children ages 1-6 rolls downtown.

The carnival opens Thursday at 3 p.m. at Memorial Field, and the Pet Parade is set for 4 p.m. at Van Buren and Lawrence streets uptown.

Friday includes the Rhododendron Flower Show at 3 p.m. At Fort Worden Chapel and the Kiddies Parade at 3:30 p.m. on Monroe Street near the skate Park.

Another major event at 6 p.m. Friday are the Bed Races, beginning at 6:30 p.m.


The Rhododendron Festival dates back to 1935 when Port Townsend businessman Clive Buttermere persuaded the Hearst Metronome News organization to film the rhododendrons in bloom in Jefferson County.

In anticipation of the filming, the community organized a queen’s competition, providing young women to be photographed with the flowers.

Members of the community voted for their favorite girl by shopping at participating merchants with dollars spent being equal to votes cast.

Myrtle Olsen was voted the first queen and appeared in Hearst’s “short subject” films.

The American Legion decided to make the event annual, with the first Rhododendron Festival taking place in 1936.

The Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce took over the festival in the ’50s, and the festival became a nonprofit corporation, not affiliated with any specific group, in the 1980s.

More in Life

Computer basics classes offered

The Jefferson County Library will present “Computer Basics: Fixing… Continue reading

Pictured in the front row, from left to right, are Vance Smith, John Wylie, John Braasch, Gary Zambor, Pete Waldrip, Bob Caruthers, William Smith and Bob Wheeler. 

In the back row, from left to right: Arnie Finley, Winston Cardinez, Bob Jackson, William Schult, Michael Dew, Paul Carmean and Mike Sutherland. 

Sadie is in the foreground.
Masonic officers announced

The Port Angeles Masonic Lodge #69 has elected new officers for 2023.… Continue reading

Photo by Sherry Baysinger

Cutline:  Larry Baysinger dismounts his horse Scout to clear fallen tree branches off a trail in Mt. Mueller. Davidson, his mules, is fitted with a pack saddle designed to carry his chainsaw on top, an axe (the yellow axe handle is seen sticking out of the pack box) and other tools, and even two small chairs he and his wife to sit on when taking a break.
HORSEPLAY: The keepers of Mt. Mueller

THE “KEEPERS OF Mt. Mueller,” is how I refer to Larry and… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: Getting to the root of pruning

SINCE JANUARY IS almost over, and it starts the year off with… Continue reading

At the Nest in Uptown Port Townsend on Wednesday are, from left, lead coffee companion Karley Caseber, program manager Dana Marklund and OWL 360 Executive Director Kelli Parcher. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/For Peninsula Daily News)
OWL360’s Nest connects teens to resources

Proceeds from cafe fund youth services

Mental health classes offered

The National Alliance On Mental Illness Jefferson County will… Continue reading

Woodworking contest set Saturday

Port Angeles High School will host a cabinetmaking contest… Continue reading

Port Angeles Symphony soloist wins international prize

Ceremony to be held in Poland about a month after PA performance

Computer basics class offered twice this week

The Jefferson County Library will present “Computer Basics: Mouse… Continue reading

Most Read