Rhododendrons and more in spotlight as Jefferson County’s oldest annual festival kicks off today

PORT TOWNSEND — The town is preparing for the 75th annual Rhododendron Festival this week, continuing the tradition of the oldest annual festival in Jefferson County.

The week’s events lead up to the parade, which this year will feature 75 entries, said Rita Hubbard, grand parade chairwoman, who is looking for more help.

Volunteers still needed

As of Friday, only 20 parade volunteers — half of what is needed — had committed to the event.

“People can still show up on parade day, and we usually get enough,” Hubbard said. “But it would be nice if they told us in advance that they were coming.”

While there is no danger of the festival going broke just yet, its continued existence cannot be taken for granted, she added, saying the festival is struggling financially.

“Every year we run right down to zero,” Hubbard said.

But Friday, a fresh infusion of cash for the festival was raised by 16 brave men who dressed up as women and, while modeling the latest in Goodwill fashions, danced for tips at the Port Townsend Elk’s Club.

The Dude Looks Like a Lady fundraiser — a new event this year — not only reaped smiles and laughter, but also $2,028 for the Rhododendron Festival.

Rhody Fest activities

Queen Ashlee Marie Nollette and Princess Teslin LeMaster, both 16-year-old juniors at Port Townsend High School, will reign over the festivities.

The royal court will leave their handprints at the Fort Worden Rhody Garden at 3 p.m. today.

On Wednesday, the Trike Race for those 6 and younger will take off at 6 p.m. on Washington Street between Taylor and Quincy streets.

On Thursday, the Pet Parade is planned at 4 p.m. from Pierce to Taylor streets.

On Friday, the Kiddie Parade will line up at 2:45 p.m. for a journey from Pierce to Madison streets.

Later that day, participants will check in at 6 p.m. for the Bed Race on Washington Street, between Quincy and Taylor.

Also on Friday, members of the public can enter their best rhododendron blooms at the annual Rhododendron Show at the Fort Worden State Park Chapel from noon to 6 p.m.

Entries in the show sponsored by the Olympic Peninsula Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society will be judged Saturday morning.

The show will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Grand finale

The Rhododendron Festival Parade — which has the theme of Diamond Jubilee — will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday on Lawrence Street uptown.

Rhododendron past royalty will serve as grand marshals in the parade

The parade will travel east on Lawrence Street, south on Monroe Street, west on Water Street and north on Monroe Street.

Also that day, the 17th annual Jim Caldwell Memorial Rhody Golf Tournament will begin at 8 a.m. at the Port Townsend Golf Club.

It will continue on Sunday, beginning at 9 a.m.

Volunteers, donations

Both volunteers and donations are still needed, Hubbard said.

Parade volunteers take all shapes and sizes.

As marshals, they can watch the parade from their usual viewpoint while exercising minor crowd control.

As judges they can observe from any point, and submit their forms after the parade has passed their area.

Drivers are needed to chauffeur the dignitaries through the parade.

A poor economy has affected the festival, Hubbard said.

“We could use more individual donors, but they think the businesses are going to kick in. But they don’t give as much as they used to.”

Economic pressure aside, Hubbard said that the parade and other Rhody Festival events always come together at the last minute.

For a complete list of activities, see www.ptguide.com/rhodyfest/schedule.html.

Potential volunteers can phone Hubbard at 360-531-0889.

________

Jefferson County reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

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