BROOKINGS — The Brookings-Harbor Azalea Festival marks its upcoming 80th year with an Oregon Heritage Tradition designation by the Oregon Heritage Commission.
Other Oregon Heritage Traditions include the Oregon State Fair, Medford’s Pear Blossom Festival, the Pendleton Round-Up, and the Woodburn Fiesta Mexicana.
“The designation recognizes those traditions that have helped define the character of the state,” said Todd Kepple, the commission’s chair. “The Azalea Festival celebrates the beauty of Oregon’s south coast.”
The Azalea Festival began in 1939 when the Chamber of Commerce formed and Azalea Park was dedicated. The story is that Oregon State Parks superintendent Samuel Boardman was to come to Brookings to dedicate the park, so the community decided there should be a big celebration to go with it. The annual Azalea Festival was born. It ran for a few years, until invasion by Japanese forces seemed possible in late 1941. Travel was restricted, and the festival was suspended until World War II came to an end. It started up again after the War and has run every year since.
Today the vision of the Azalea Festival and Parade is to celebrate community and bring everyone together to kick off summer tourist season. An estimated 150+ volunteers put time into the festival, and various civic, cultural, political, and religious groups come together to contribute to the all-volunteer run event. The public can participate in a variety of activities including a parade, art show, antique car show, disc golf tournament, library book sale, veteran memorials, and Rock the Chetco concert.
As the name of the festival indicates, azaleas are a central focus, with an estimated 3,000 azalea plants in the area. Expert gardeners assert that some of the ancient native azaleas, rhododendron occidental, have been alive for 150-400 years.
The Brookings-Harbor Azalea Festival will be held May 24-26. More information can be found at: https://brookingsharborchamber.com/
An Oregon Heritage Tradition must have been in continuous operation for more than 50 years, demonstrate a public profile and reputation that distinguishes it from more routine events, and add to the livability and identity of the state. A list of Tradition designations is available at http://www.oregon.gov/oprd/HCD/OHC/pages/oht.aspx .
The Oregon Heritage Commission coordinates efforts to solve statewide heritage issues through grants, education, and advocacy, and also promotes heritage tourism efforts.