Floral Parade reblossoms
By Dean Rhodes
Smoke Signals editor
PORTLAND -- For the first time since June 2019, a Spirit Mountain Casino float trundled out of Veterans Memorial Coliseum during the return of the Grand Floral Parade on Saturday, June 11.
The parade was canceled, like so many other events, in 2020 and ’21 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The casino’s float, “Returning to Our Roots,” featured a Native girl wearing dentalium earrings and harvesting camas bulbs. On her back was a large gathering basket made of corn husks that had been christened with real camas seeds. On the rear of the float were a mother and baby deer observing the girl’s activity.
Spirit Mountain Casino Public Relations Administrator Jocelyn Huffman said the design of the float was a collaboration with Cultural Resources Department employees Bobby Mercier and Travis Stewart, who provided 19th-century photos of Native women gathering camas.
However, Huffman said, the casino wanted the float to depict a modern woman to reinforce the fact that Grand Ronde Tribal members are still here.
Spirit Mountain Casino’s float “Returning to Our Roots” depicts a young Tribal woman harvesting camas bulbs. The Grand Floral Parade was held in Portland on Saturday, June 11. (Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez)
Grand Ronde Royalty – Senior Miss Grand Ronde Kaleigha Simi, Veterans Senior Queen Tasina Bluehorse, Junior Miss Grand Ronde Marie Quenelle, Veterans Little Miss Queen Leloo Quenelle, Veterans Junior Queen KaLea Liebelt and Little Miss Grand Ronde Ila Mercier – walked in front of the float through Memorial Coliseum and outdoors to the VIP seating area before the float started unaccompanied on the parade route proper.
The two-mile parade route left Memorial Coliseum north on Broadway and then east on Weidler before heading south on Martin Luther King Boulevard. It then went east on Lloyd Boulevard before wrapping up at the disband area at the Lloyd Center parking lot.
After leaving the float, Tribal Royalty members distributed packets of camas seeds to audience members in celebration of Spirit Mountain Casino’s 25th anniversary of participating in the Grand Floral Parade.
“I think the float is outstanding,” said Tribal Council member Michael Cherry. “It’s amazing and I am so proud of it. Look at all of the beautiful flowers. I particularly love the earrings. They’re just so real.
“I love the theme of returning to our roots. This really is the core of who were are as Native American people and the basket and the camas and bringing all of that back to our land is part of this idea of healing that we have been focusing on … healing and restoration. I love it.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, June 8-9, Tribal volunteers, including Veronica Gaston, descended on Funtastic Traveling Shows in east Portland to finish decorating the casino’s float.
The Grand Floral Parade is the second largest floral parade in the United States. This was the 12th year of Spirit Mountain Casino as the presenting sponsor.
Before the start of the parade, Spirit Mountain Community Fund Program Coordinator Angela Schlappie and Cherry awarded a $100,000 check to the Center for Hope and Safety of Salem before the news cameras of KPTV.
The money will fund Hope Plaza, which will build housing for survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking, said Center for Hope and Safety Executive Director Jayne Downing.
Schlappie said it was the fifth grant totaling $270,741 that the Community Fund has awarded to Center for Hope and Safety.
The Community Fund also presented a $50,000 check to Sunshine Division Executive Director Kyle Camberg.
Members of Grand Ronde Royalty – Senior Miss Grand Ronde Kaleigha Simi, Veterans Senior Queen Tasina Bluehorse, Junior Miss Grand Ronde Marie Quenelle, Veterans Little Miss Queen Leloo Quenelle and Veterans Junior Queen KaLea Liebelt -- also participated in the Starlight Parade, which was held Saturday, June 4.
Unlike in previous years, the Grand Floral Parade did not judge floats or present awards, said Rose Festival Foundation Public Relations Manager Rich Jarvis.
“However, if it was up to me, I would pick the Spirit Mountain Casino (float) as the best in the group,” he added.