Casino float fetes fishing at Willamette Falls

06.13.2019 Danielle Frost Spirit Mountain Casino, Events, Culture
From left, Grand Ronde Royalty members Junior Miss Grand Ronde Kaleigha Simi, Senior Miss Grand Ronde Isabelle Grout, Senior Veterans Queen Mabel Brisbois and Junior Veterans Queen Tasina Bluehorse escort the Spirit Mountain Casino float “Keeping Culture Alive at Willamette Falls” as it enters the Memorial Coliseum during the Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade held in Portland on Saturday, June 8. The casino's float won the Governor's Award for the best depiction of life in Oregon. (Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/Smoke Signals)

By Danielle Frost

Smoke Signals staff writer

PORTLAND – Crowds flocked to Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the outdoor chalet area to watch the Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade on Saturday, June 8.

A festive atmosphere prevailed even at 7:15 a.m. with excited parade-goers exemplifying the 2019 theme “Let’s Festival.”

The parade is the highlight of the multi-week Rose Festival in Portland, a 112-year tradition that kicks off Memorial Day weekend with the opening of the CityFair carnival along the Willamette River waterfront.

The Grand Floral Parade is the second largest floral parade in America, featuring a variety of cultures, dancers, marching bands and floats of all shapes and sizes.

Despite some traffic hiccups due to parade horses being on the wrong street, seating at the Chalet area next to the coliseum filled fast with attendees who paid $25 to $30 extra to have the opportunity to sit in a prime viewing area and enjoy scrambled eggs, pastries, fruit, bacon and coffee prepared by Spirit Mountain Casino chefs.

Unlike a majority of other years, rain and drizzle held off and the temperature was a tad chilly, but with dashes of sunshine.

Spirit Mountain Casino celebrated its 24th year of being a Rose Festival partner and ninth year as a presenting sponsor. Its float, “Keeping Culture Alive at Willamette Falls,” was the fourth out of Memorial Coliseum to begin the 4.2-mile parade route.

The float was designed by Tribal Council member and artist Steve Bobb Sr. and built by Portland-based SCI 3.2, which has built every casino float for the last 23 years.

Watching the parade from the front row Saturday, Bobb described the atmosphere as “fun and festive.”

“For our Tribe to be a part of this festival is great,” he said. “Growing up, I used to watch the Rose Festival on TV and never imagined I would be a part of that.”

It is Bobb’s eighth year designing the parade float. This year’s creation was done with the input of Tribal members, who wanted it to reflect Grand Ronde culture.

“A big accomplishment this year is being able to fish from the platform at Willamette Falls,” Bobb said. “I figured that would be a perfect theme to use for the float.”

Apparently the five judges who examine each float in the parade to determine awards felt the same: The Tribe’s entry was honored with the Governor’s Award for best depiction of life in Oregon.

Volunteers and community members put the finishing touches on the float earlier in the week. The float featured a Tribal fisherman scooping his net into the rushing water of Willamette Falls from a platform above while a river otter pauses to take in the scene.

In addition to Bobb, Tribal Council Secretary Jon A. George and Denise Harvey attended. It was Harvey’s first time at the parade.

“Seeing all of the visitors and their excitement is great,” she said. “I wish I would have come in the past and brought my family, too.”

Harvey, who also serves on the Spirit Mountain Community Fund Board of Trustees, attended a special check presentation filmed by “Good Day Oregon” Traffic Reporter Tony Martinez with Community Fund Director Michael Cherry before the parade began.

The Community Fund awarded a $50,000 grant to Juliette’s House of McMinnville and a $45,000 grant to Tucker Maxon School of Portland. The Community Fund has a long history of giving to both organizations dating back to the early 2000s. Juliette’s House is a child abuse intervention center and Tucker Maxon assists deaf and regular hearing students.

“That gave everyone a good feeling to be able to give grants to great organizations,” Harvey said.

It was the first time the Community Fund has distributed checks at the Rose Festival. The opportunity came about after Spirit Mountain Casino Sponsorship Administrator Jocelyn Huffman and Cherry met to brainstorm ways they could partner to do more outreach in the community.

“Doing it live was a great opportunity,” Huffman said.

During the parade, Huffman also announced that Spirit Mountain Casino would continue its sponsorship of the event for another three years, which makes it the longest-running title sponsor in the history of the Grand Floral Parade.

“I have always looked at our sponsorship as more of a partnership,” Huffman said. “These are people I consider to be my friends.”

She was also excited that the Tribe’s float won the Governor’s Award.

“That’s our life in Oregon,” Huffman said. “I don’t think there was a better award to win.”

Before the parade began, Grand Ronde Royalty and Veterans Royalty members received a behind-the scenes sneak peek at the various floats in the staging area behind the coliseum, and had the opportunity to see Rose Festival Court members who visited Chachalu Museum & Cultural Center and achaf-hammi, the Tribal plankhouse, on May 9.

Royalty also participated in the Starlight Parade held at 9 p.m. Saturday, June 1, in downtown Portland.

Grand Ronde Royalty members Junior Miss Grand Ronde Kaleigha Simi, Little Miss Grand Ronde Sophia Grout, Senior Miss Grand Ronde Isabelle Grout, Veterans Senior Queen Mabel Brisbois, Veterans Junior Queen Tasina Bluehorse and Veterans Junior Warrior Nacoma Liebelt accompanied the casino float when it entered Memorial Coliseum and began the parade route.

“My favorite part of this is seeing which princess gets crowned for the Rose Festival,” Brisbois said.

“I like seeing all of the cool floats,” Liebelt said.

Isabelle Grout, 15, has been participating in the festival for “as long as I can remember.”

“It’s always fun getting to see all of the princesses,” she said.

After the final floats rolled through the coliseum and chalet area, the crowd began to disperse, some to continue on to the CityFair carnival, where they could festival on and view the floats and mini-floats on display along Naito Parkway.