I hope this message find you well. 2020 has been one of the most tumultuously eventful years in the history of the Rose Festival. It was unexpected, it was unpredictable, it could have been catastrophic, it has been wildly different from any expectations, yet it has been successful in many ways. We are here, we are in good financial shape and good organizational shape, and we have maintained hope throughout.
As we look back on this unbelievable year, the Festival community – Directors and staff – has become stronger by the shared experience of passing through this fiery forge as a family, supporting and encouraging each other, and communicating the hope and conviction that there are better days to come.
The Portland Rose Festival is here to STAY.
It amazes me that my participation in this great Festival has been running so long, spanning more than 40% of the history of the Festival. In more down-to-earth terms, I started volunteering the year my son was born, so it spans his entire lifetime to date. He is truly a Rose Festival lifer and an oft-time Festival volunteer himself.
A year and a half ago, in another age, my wife Kathleen and I celebrated our Golden Wedding anniversary, and many of our Rose Festival friends honored us by attending our celebration of those fifty years.
Just two months ago we traded in our empty-nester status to become a multi-generational family again, as our son, daughter-in-law and grandson moved to our home to provide a boot-strap for their efforts to eventually become homeowners themselves. Sadly, we lost our daughter-in-law Jamie to abrupt and rapid non-COVID illness just weeks after they joined us. So now we are providing needed family support as E’an and Henry begin an unanticipated rebuilding of their lives. When parades again become a reality, I hope you will see Henry riding with Kathleen and me on the back of a convertible.
Though my multiple careers—including 31 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy (retiring as a captain in 2001), followed by 33 years of university-level teaching in information systems—are now part of history, my career of community service volunteerism continues, entering a new and exciting stage as Rose Festival president.
Early in May, while we all were in the midst of trying to work out what kind of Festival we could make this year, I found inspiration in an essay titled “Department of Essential Work,” a piece originally written about care of botanical gardens in this time of pandemic. I have paraphrased its message to describe our sense of commitment to care and feeding of the Festival…
The Festival is as much about the visitors who come to it as it is the events we produce.
All of us feel a sense of loss as we look back on the year that spun out of control and changed OUR Festival so dramatically. Even so, those of us who work and volunteer for the Festival remain grateful that we are privileged to be a part of the world’s best Festival and that we remain well and able to contribute to festivity and joy in the very special and beautiful place that is Portland.
The pay-forward for that privilege is we must do everything we can to make sure that the Festival does what it needs to do whenever people are able to return to it. We want the Festival always to be an escape, a celebration, and not a reminder of what was lost.
What do we as a nonprofit Foundation bring to mind some important words, including Hopeful in the face of adversity, Adaptable to circumstances, Nimble in response to rapid and unexpected change, Collaborative in our work together, Creative in our thinking, Innovative in trying new things and approaches.
These are collective characteristics we have exhibited this year, characteristics I will encourage at Rose Festival next year and the year after.
I could not be privileged to lead a better or more talented team. My pledge as we enter our next 2021 Festival Year is to do everything in my power to encourage, support and enable the success of the Rose Festival family. My intention in fulfilling that pledge is to lead from the future, not from the past.
The future is what we make of it. I look forward to working with the Rose Festival team to see what we can make that future look like.
The Portland Rose Festival IS here to stay.