© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

As It Was: Brookings, Ore., Azalea Festival Set for May 24-27

The Brookings, Ore., Azalea Festival has expanded in size and popularity since its beginning in May 1939.

An early highlight was the free Wild Hog Barbecue.  A wild hog was displayed in a pen, and later released, while a domestic cousin was roasted over hot coals.  The barbecue became a leading attraction, drawing some 2,000 people the next year from as far away as Portland and Los Angeles.

Dormant during World War II, the Azalea Festival resumed after the war, adding a parade, flower show, dance, and a festival queen pageant.  In 1946, the national magazine, Holiday, listed the Brookings Azalea Festival as one of six outstanding celebrations held in May in the United States.

Gradually, the festival added more homespun activities, including a rodeo, carnival, musical bands, and a scavenger hunt.  A beef barbecue and crab feed replaced the so-called wild hog barbecue.  Rising costs and increased attendance forced organizers to charge for meals, and by 1963 the Festival’s budget broke even for the first time.

This year, the Azalea Festival celebrates its 80th anniversary and features a full three-day schedule, May 24-27.

Sources: Olsen, Edward G. “Then Till Now In Brookings-Harbor.” Rotary Club of Brookings, 1979, pp. 180-84; “Azalea Festival Pageant Saved.” Curry Pilot, March 29, 2019; "Azalea Festival Schedule 2018." Ibid. May 2018.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.