Sunday, May 18, 2008

36 hours till parade time.

The Rhododendron Festival, in its 73rd year, is the second oldest festival in Washington. Port Townsend has an endless stream of weekend festivals marketed to visitors throughout the year—representing musical genres, arts, boats, Victoriana, and so on—but only Rhody (as this festival is known) is directed at the local population. Its value in terms of cultural capital seems lost to the Town Council, which has a lone member who was raised here; the council this year instituted fees to the all-volunteer Rhody Festival for the first time, with warnings of greater “cost-recovery” to come. This was influential in this year’s festival board cancelling one day’s events and relocating some activities away from the shopping district, and some fear that it may well cripple the festival, which has always been free. That strikes me as a potentially great loss in a town where residents set out lawn chairs to reserve prime viewing spots more than a day before the parade actually begins.

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