The Big Float ~

It rains in Portland. It rains a lot!  So when summer rolls around and the sun finally shines its happy light on us, everyone heads for the great outdoors and some fun in the sun – Portland style.  Which is how hubs and I ended up at The Big Float.

Wandering the streets of downtown Portland

Wandering the streets of downtown Portland

This year more than 2,500 souls dragged their pale white bodies, their favorite flotation devices, kids, friends, grandma and in some cases, even their dogs through the streets of Southwest Portland making their way to Tom McCall Waterfront Park to pay the $6 fee that allowed them to participate in one of Portland’s most unique summer events.

The Big Float officially kicked off  with a spectacular parade let by the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers, a very good and very loud drum corps marching band.   The band played as the would-be floaters, in all their floating finery, clutched their flotation devices big and small, formed a very long line and began to snake their way slowly down the pedestrian walkway from Waterfront Park to Poet’s Beach. They shuffled for roughly a quarter mile passing a high end hotel, several restaurants, shops, a wine bar and a condominium complex.

They marched!

They marched!

Some smart folks, who had probably done this once or twice before, decided to skip the official parade and beat it down the path to Poet’s Beach well ahead of the official start.  They had time for a pre-float work out and some mental prep.

Practicing their float moves

Practicing their float moves

getting mentally prepared.  The hats are key.

getting mentally prepared. The hats are key.

When the marchers finally reached Poet’s Beach, things slowed down considerably as they had to make a very sharp left turn, leave the pavement and pick their way very carefully down a narrow gravel path.  This was easier for some than others.  Like the folks carrying large 6 man rafts on their heads.

Making the turn

Making the turn

The band played for an hour and still the parade was lined up as far back as our eyes could see.  They were a patient bunch but it was hot and  that chilly river water was looking better and better.

A bride

A bride

And her bridesmaids

And her bridesmaids

I had a vision of thousands of very colorful lemmings singing and dancing their way to the sea.  But in the end, everyone agreed it was definitely worth the slow walk and the long wait.

The Big Float

The Big Float

When they finally did hit the water, it was an easy float or paddle back to Waterfront Park where the party was now in full swing.  Three bands entertained from a barge just offshore, nine carts provided local food and drink, chair massages helped work out the kinks and a play area entertained the wee ones.  Add lots of cool grass to stretch out on – and a good time was had by all.

Portland, you sure know how to throw a Summer Party.  Thanks for inviting us.

Keep Portland Weird!

Cheers,

Nancy

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30 thoughts on “The Big Float ~

    • Ha Char! Dawn said Portland was copying Pt Townsend. You guys have way more fun but I love sharing some of the great things that go on around here. I hope it inspires others to get out wherever they live because there is always fun happening if you look for it – as you already know.

  1. Not sure anyone would want to put their tush in the water on either of the Philadelphia rivers (hence, the skulling tradition), but this looks like fun!

    • Actually, Suzanne, this why the whole event was started. A group is promoting river clean-up and access wanted to show the river was safe and fun (now that so much work has been done to restore it) so they created the event 4 years ago. It brings people to the river and a lot of awareness to keeping the local waters clean. All good stuff and lots of fun!

    • It was pure wacky entertainment Neva. I took so many photos I had to restrain myself to just post a few on the blog.

    • It definitely was fun. Lots of dads + kids on all kinds of floating devices. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

    • It is a great area Michele. When you survive the long dark damp winters, you have to know how to get out and frolic in the sun! Portlanders have taken frolicing to an art form.

  2. Fun! Minneapolis should adopt this practice in one of the lakes, if not the river. Most people here head to Wisconsin’s Apple River for tubing. Vans (and sober drivers) retrieve the revelers down river.

  3. Portland folks know how to celebrate summer. Never heard of this before, but I’d totally love to participate (or at least witness) in all the fun sometime. I’ve never been to Portland except to change flights — a shame since I live in N. California!

    • Well Cathy, maybe its time for you and Mr. TWS to come visit. I’d be happy to give you a personal tour!

    • Mine too, Marilyn. There were so many great get-ups that it was hard to just post a few photos. Can’t wait to see what the coming weekend brings!

    • Yes I have been to the sand sculpture in Canon Beach. We also have Sand in the City where we truck in tons of sand into Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland (aka Portland’s living room) and various groups create amazing sand sculptures for charity. Portland is a great town. It’s hard to leave in the summer…so usually we don’t although we do have a Boston trip coming up in a few weeks.

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