Casino, Tribe ready to rock during Grand Floral Parade

05.31.2012 Dean Rhodes Spirit Mountain Casino, Entertainment, Events

Spirit Mountain Casino is ready to rock.

The casino is title sponsor of the Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade for the second year running.

The sponsorship puts the casino and the Grand Ronde Tribe front and center on the parade's main float. This year the float will have a waterfall rushing to the tune of the tragic pop song "Running Bear," which was a No. 1 hit for Johnny Preston in 1960.

It tells the story of Running Bear, an Indian brave, and Little White Dove, an Indian maid, who are in love but separated by a raging river and their respective Tribes dislike for each other.

The music fits this year's Rock 'n' Roses theme.

Tribal Council member Steve Bobb Sr. was a kid growing up in Grand Ronde when he first began seeing all of the pageantry of the Grand Floral Parade.

"How spectacular that was," he said, "and in the 70s, it began to be televised, the picking of the princesses, all the pageantry, and now to be able to play some small role, I never thought that would happen to me. This is very exciting."

He is downplaying the size of his role although he has championed Tribal support for the Rose Festival for many years and has designed the casino's float for the last four parades.

"We're using it as a vehicle to expose our ties to the area," he said, "and to be able to tell the Grand Ronde story. This is one more vehicle we have to tell that story; as well as using it as a marketing tool for our casino."

But most importantly, he adds, "is that people know that the Grand Ronde are the indigenous people of the Willamette Valley."

Kiana Leno and Peter Nelson posed as models for the float. They stand back-to-back in the rushing water that will pull them down with their hands together forming the shape of a heart.

"I had to give it some thought this year," Bobb said, "but came up with this pop song from the 1960s."

This year marks the 105th year of the Rose Festival and the 100th time the parade has been held. Because of war and construction issues over the years, the parade was not always held.

Spirit Mountain Casino's float is called "Love Rocks."

As part of the promotion for the parade, slated for 10 a.m. Saturday, June 9, the local Fox 12 News station interviewed Bobb on May 14 for a segment broadcast the next morning. Fox 12 also broadcasts the parade live.

Casino and Tribal involvement in Rose Festival events is a year-round effort, said Casino Marketing Sponsorship Coordinator Jocelyn Huffman.

"We hold two onsite events - the court visit and the VIP sponsor party. We also take part in several events leading up to the Rose Festival that include the Starlight Parade, an invitation-only golf tournament and a two-day float build that takes place on June 6 and 7. This includes Tribal Elders and casino employees.

"Float judging is on June 8 and ends with the Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade on June 9.

"I have had the honor of working closely with Steve to plan different aspects of our involvement so that we are able to tell the Tribe's story as well as advertise the casino."

In all, this year's parade will include 14 floats, and, reflecting this year's Rose Festival theme, organizers say the parade will feature more music than ever. Eighteen traditional marching bands plus several dancing groups and three live a cappella singing groups, 21 equestrian groups, plus marchers, dancers and special guests in vintage automobiles will be among more than 90 entries. The a cappella group will be the winner of a new Rose Festival event The Rose City Sing-Off.

Also involved with event planning from the casino are Marketing Manager Greg Fritz and Marketing Coordinator Angie Sears.

"We've been an invisible people in our own nation," Bobb said, but with the Grand Floral Parade, that omission is remedied a little bit more every year.