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Roseburg Strawberry Festival Inspires Portland Rose Festival

The Roseburg City Commercial Club staged its first Strawberry Festival in May of 1909 to showcase Roseburg’s business interests.  The three-day event had food booths and a thatch-roofed stage on unpaved Jackson Street.  Capitola Willis was the first Strawberry queen.

The festival parades featured elaborate floats covered in flowers and banners.  Handsome buggies drawn by matched teams competed in the morning parade.  Newfangled automobiles decorated as battleships and carrying stages for dancers competed for prizes in the afternoon.  School closed on Friday to let some 800 students march in the children’s parade dressed in their finest clothes. Some rode tricycles and pony carts, while others pulled decorated wagons or marched with their school classes.  The festival chose a junior queen and court for the first time in 1911.

An estimated 10,000 people attended the last festival in 1919, presided over by Queen Maxine McLaughlin.  The same year a delegation from Portland came to observe and consult with Roseburg authorities to begin its own festival – eventually to be called the Rose Festival.

Source: Goeres-Gardner, Diane L. and the Douglas County Museum. Images of America: Roseburg, Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2010. Print.

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Diane L. Goeres-Gardner began writing about little known aspects of Oregon history after retiring as a teacher and administrator. Her first book, "Necktie Parties, A History of Legal Executions in Oregon, 1851-1905," was published by Caxton Press in 2005. She went on to write and have published four more books covering women's rights, the treatment of mental illness, and the history of Roseburg, Oregon. Goeres-Gardner passed away in December of 2017.