Rose Festival bureaucracy

For over 100 years, the Portland Rose Festival has been a time-honored tradition in our city.  Parades, carnivals, Royal Rosarians and all other events alike, contribute to this long-standing celebration.

For over 100 years, the Portland Rose Festival has been a time-honored tradition in our city.  Parades, carnivals, Royal Rosarians and all other events alike, contribute to this long-standing celebration.

On Jan. 13, the Rose Festival was voted and named as Portland’s official festival by the Portland City Council—as it should be for being a community celebration as long as it has been. For high school students, it provides a connection with their community through the participation of their school’s Rose Festival Princess.

Sadly, this year, this community connection for students has been endangered.

Last year, the Rose Festival announced a few major changes. Among them was that a 15th seat was going to be added to the court. Along with the traditional 14 Portland schools holding a permanent position on the court (for now), 28 additional schools from surrounding areas will compete for the added slot, which they are calling the “Metro Princess.” Due to contributions and participation these schools have made in years past to the Rose Festival, it was felt that there was a need to have the schools represented on the court.

This year, if any of Portland’s 14 schools fail to produce five candidates for princess, their school will be permanently cast in the Metro pool for princess, a controversial move.

Previously, girls would apply to be selected for their school’s court and after meeting all of the requirements—for the elected princess will receive a scholarship towards their higher education—they would prepare a speech, which corresponds with the year’s selected theme. Then a panel of judges would travel from school to school and select the girls to compete for their school’s Rose Princess Court. Some years, all of the girls who applied would be selected and other years only a few. The selected girls would then present their speech and answer impromptu questions in front of their student body and the students would vote for their representative in the Rose Festival.

Now, a new step in the process has been introduced, which removes the importance of the student vote. (see the Rose Princess judging process on the left of this page) The student vote now is counted as an eighth vote in the panel’s judging for the princess. This means if the other judges vote another way, the students’ vote is completely disregarded and carries no weight.

The student-body vote for their school’s princess was taken out of the deciding factor to get rid of a popularity vote. Former Parkrose High School Rose Festival Princess Margaret Drew is concerned by this change.

“I really think that this change is hurting the Rose Festival by taking the spirit away from the schools,” Drew said. “And the honor away from the princess knowing that they chose her.”

Darlene Poirier and Connie Rader are the Rose Festival coordinators at Parkrose High School. They say for the most part, the change regarding the five-court rule happened to ensure schools’ cooperation in the program. Not every school has a good track record of girls who want to participate in the program, which is why each school is required to have five qualified girls on a school’s court.

“I feel this aspect of the screening process is a little extreme and will be submitting a few alternatives to the [Rose Festival] board to consider,” Poirier said about the five-girl rule. “It is not fair to punish future courts because the current year couldn’t produce five qualifying candidates.”

Changes to tradition are always a little harder to accept, especially when the tradition is as close to your heart as the Rose Festival is to so many here in Portland. This recent alteration to the selection process, though, damages the importance of the student body a princess is meant to represent. This event is more than a simple parade where girls stand around looking pretty. Before the parade is a progression where school pride and student involvement plays a key role in their community.

Let’s not threaten this involvement. Give back the influence high school students deserve.