Yesterday I was heading downtown to meet a friend at the Art Museum, and I got distracted by drums! I crossed the street to the Oregon Historical Society where about a hundred people were gathering.
Coming down the street were a couple hundred more, lead by a hundred foot long Chinese dragon! Then came smaller dragons of blue and yellow, even black! It was delightful and amazing.
The line of dragons and folks paraded up the ramp to the Jin and Julieanne Park Plaza in front of the Oregon Historical Society and did a rousing dance. The thumping drums were so big they had to be pulled in a wagon. People kept surging up the ramp, with people shimmying into gaps in the crowd to be able to watch, until we were all shoulder to shoulder.
People were dancing along, taking pictures, and boosting children onto their shoulders. When all the dragons had taken their turn, bowed their bows, and the last drum had thumped, the dancers removed their dragon heads and chatted with the crowd. The dragons, which had danced so fiercely, now seemed to be big fluffy muppets. They even let some kids touch their delicate trim.
The Lunar New Year Parade was presented by the Chinatown Museum and the Oregon Historical Society, and they had paraded from the one to the other, and I had known nothing about it. I felt so lucky to have been in the right place to see the grand finale!
I was raised in Southern California, often waking up at 4 A.M. on New Year’s Morning to stand on the streets of Pasadena to watch the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade. The incredible design and engineering work on the floats and the precision of the marching bands was breathtaking.
So of course, now that I am living in Portland, “The City of Roses”, I wanted to experience this Rose Parade. So Saturday morning, after a stop at The Rocking Frog for coffee and sweets, we took the number 15 bus across the river to downtown.
We got off at 4th and Jefferson and started walking, and there it was! A band! a trolley! Kids and people with balloons and dogs, waving and walking. And then….. nothing.
For an hour.
Rain came, then sun, then more rain. The adults in the crowd hunkered down and the kids found ways to have fun, as kids do. We walked around, since old knees hate to stand still. Finally, we heard a band! Following our ears, we found the rest of the parade.
A magnificently detailed float, portraying a much larger than life cougar and her cub, was the first entry. It was breathtaking, and so large it was hard to get a decent photo.
Over the next few hours, we saw one other float of that level of professionalism, the Reser’s Fine Foods float which featured an enormous sea otter. A dragon from Alaska Airlines and a giant rainbow trout from PGE were also very nice.
The rest of the parade was not engineered or precisely designed. It was delightfully quirky, human sized, and friendly. Marching bands all played well and were uniformed, except for Kentlake High School, whose members all wore costumes from different video games.
Clowns interacted with the crowd, and “pooper-scoopers” in striped prison garb followed the equestrian units. The women of the Union of Electrical Workers wore Rosie the Riveter “We can do it” outfits and struck the pose with giant smiles. The sailors from the USS Michael Murphy walked and chatted among themselves, rushing to pose for a smiling group photo at the drop of a hat.
There were dancing Germans, marching flight attendants with luggage, and the llama brigade.
My favorite group of the day was the One More Time Around Again Marching band and twirling unit. These men and women, all “of a certain age”, marched, danced, twirled and played in delightful unison. They did not have “parade face”, but were clearly having fun and inviting us to, as well. Auntie Bridgett gave them the nickname the “Have Fun Every Damn Day of your Life” band. I took a video, but can’t put it in this blog. I posted it on Facebook, though.
As I said, this was a very different kind of Rose Parade. It was homey, friendly, silly and fun, something I didn’t expect from a large city like Portland. People don’t travel from all over the world to be here, which means you can get to know everyone in the parade. You can go to their meetings and join their groups. YOU can be in the parade, if you like.