It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 12 weeks since I reached out to you to reflect on the role Rose Festival wanted to play in boosting our community spirit during the current health crisis. So much has happened since then, and it seems like every week brings new challenges and unanticipated opportunities. 12 weeks feels more like 12 months to me, and I have a feeling I’m not alone in that. While my puppy Stella struggles to grow into her feet, she seems happily unaware of how awkward she is. On the other hand, my own discomfort over wrestling with unfamiliar work situations and stubborn technology seems all too obvious, at least to me.
If you’re like me, maybe you find yourself discouraged one day as plans unravel, then re-energized the next, as new ideas and possibilities take shape. We have never been more inundated by information, more challenged to keep up with the details and trends of our ever-changing world. And occasionally, doubt might even creep into our thinking.
What has helped keep me hopeful during the past 3 months what has alleviated that doubt more than anything else, is working and interacting with my dedicated, enthusiastic colleagues, the amazing board leaders and inspiring staff members of the Portland Rose Festival Foundation. The latter have worked tirelessly to continue to contribute to this community, and their creativity has resulted in innovative takes on our festival traditions, turning events like our Opening Night Fireworks into a virtual show, offering our friends and followers the opportunity to parade in place with our Porch Parade and our Grand Petite Parade, events that are now being emulated by festivals across the country.
And now, after working so hard to keep hope alive, working from their homes, working at odd hours with unfamiliar tools and new restrictions, that staff is faced with the painful impact of the financial challenges we face. In order to sustain our nonprofit organization and build a bridge to future Rose Festivals, I am now forced to announce staff furloughs and reductions that will affect our entire team over the next 17 weeks.
We are thankful that receiving a PPP loan allowed us to keep our regular staff in place for as long as it did. I am particularly proud that we were able to re-imagine the Rose Festival rather than cancel it, to evolve our 2020 Rose Vision into a celebration that continued to inspire community participation, even within current constraints. The constant twists and turns of battling a pandemic did nothing to derail the forward momentum that had already started before the lockdown while we were still announcing the 2020 Rose Festival Court.
And we will go forward. The Court will soon have the chance to meet in person for the first time. And in a few weeks we will announce a Rose Festival Queen and present her to the community. We will create more opportunities for the community to celebrate as circumstances allow.
And more importantly, we will manage a financial plan that will sustain the festival for future years, one that will eventually allow us to reunite our team to begin building a runway to the 2021 Rose Festival. That plan will emphasize the support of our generous sponsors and donors to help us survive our current financial challenges, during this time when the prohibition on large events makes it impossible to generate revenue.
At six months, Stella has gotten a little difficult to manage. A few days ago she decided to rip up her dog bed, probably protesting the fact that dad is spending more time at the office now and less at home. Managing change is always difficult, and sometimes we’re faced with a mess. But we always have the chance to put things right, to keep trying, as long as we’re blessed with our health, with our hope and with the people who continually lift us up. I’m grateful to have all three, including all of you reading this message, those who share my dedication to protecting and preserving the Portland Rose Festival for years and years to come.
CEO, Portland Rose Festival Foundation