The last time anyone saw a Portland Rose Festival parade float from Vancouver, it was not a pretty sight.
In 1997, three years after the city’s final float appeared in the parade, a grim story in the April 18 issue of The Columbian described its remains as a “crumbling, rusting, shredding, rotting memory of a Vancouver entry” that was sitting under a power-line tower at the Port of Vancouver.
In the story, the port was trying to get the defunct Vancouver Float Committee to either claim the tattered carcass or declare it abandoned. It was disposed of soon after.
Now, two local businessmen, Byron Jacobus, owner of Water & Air Works, and Ron Carr, director of community development for the Vancouver Volcanoes, are trying to resurrect the long-dead tradition.
And they hope to do it in time for the 2013 Grand Floral Parade on June 8.
“We think it’s high time that the city of Vancouver had a float in the parade,” Carr said.
“We can’t figure out why it’s been so long.”
Vancouver first started participating in the annual parade in the early 1930s, and the city only missed a small handful of parades until the last one in 1994.
After that parade, volunteers lost their free indoor storage location at the port and weren’t able to find a new permanent home for it, according to an April 21, 1995 story in The Columbian.
By 1997, efforts to resurrect the float committee or build a new one were thwarted by a lack of volunteers and donations.
‘Go on forever’
Carr and Jacobus said they’re convinced that won’t happen this time around.
“This will go on forever,” Jacobus said. “We want to put a float in the parade every year. We already have a donation account set up and we have a lot of people interested.”
The pair have set up a “Vancouver Rose Festival Float” account at Riverview Community Bank, and they’re encouraging businesses and the community to donate.
It will cost about $50,000 to put together the 2013 float, they said.
Water & Air Works kicked the effort off with a $1,000 donation, and Riverview Bank matched it, so the effort already has $2,000 in the can, they said.
“If we can’t get the full $50,000 we’ll build whatever sized float we can and make sure it gets in this year’s festival,” Jacobus said.
The pair have also talked to the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, which has committed to raising $10,000 from its members, Carr said.
“The concept is that the chamber will stand up as a leader, and then we’ll ask service clubs, the mayor and the public to help out,” he said. “There are also some significant people — and I can’t mention names yet — who have committed to participating.”
The new float, “We Are Vancouver,” has already been designed and features two bastions from Fort Vancouver, the clock tower in Propstra Square, the Pearson Air Museum and other landmarks.
But not all past floats have been quite as representative of the city.
For example, the 1969 Vancouver float, called “Venetian Holiday,” appeared to be a decorative gondola. The 1964 float “Dante’s Inferno” featured a devil and snakes.
And the 1983 float, “Out of the Past and into the Future,” had a space shuttle on it, although at least that one also had the more traditional ox-driven wagon.
“I still have all the clippings and the pictures,” said Sandy Cereghino, who designed the 1983 float. “It won the Rose Society trophy that year.”
When asked why a space shuttle was included in the design, she added, “it represents moving in to the future, with the shuttle and the stars.”
Storage issue resolved
Whatever the design, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt said he’s excited to see the city once again showcased in the event.
“It would be nice for our city to be represented in the Rose Festival parade; after all, we are the second-largest city in the metropolitan area,” Leavitt said.
And the new float won’t come with the storage issues that led to the ruined hulk at the port in 1997. The fund will pay for a float from Studio Concepts Inc., a professional float-building business in Portland, Carr added.
“I don’t know how it worked back then, but what we’d be paying for is a completed float,” Carr said. “Studio Concepts retains the chassis and so we won’t have a storage problem.”
Volunteers from Vancouver can participate in the float-building process with the company, he said, but it’s not required.
In the past, the city’s floats were all built by hand, Cereghino said.
“It’s nice that Vancouver is re-entering the float age,” she said. “But a float-building company? That’s kind of sad.”
The parade, which draws up to 500,000 people to the Portland area each year, is one of the top festivals in the world. The event is televised across the region and is a good way to promote the community, said Rich Jarvis, a spokesman for the Rose Festival.
Of the towns in Clark County, only Battle Ground has been a regular participant for the past several decades, he added.
“We missed Vancouver,” Jarvis said. “We’re excited about having the city back.”