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Spring destinations

Scene of Santa Fe, painting by Judith D’Agostino

The preparations are already underway. When spring comes and melts away the melancholy of winter, communities around the country will be ready to celebrate.

Few natural events are as highly anticipated as the arrival of spring, which brings warm weather, songbirds and abundant floral colors. The cheer that fills the air can be downright contagious.

In some places, entire towns get together to herald the arrival of springtime blooms. Festivals around the country celebrate local plant and flower life and give people a reason to go outside and enjoy themselves. And although many of these events are aimed at locals in their respective towns, they make great reasons for groups to get out and travel, too.

In Oregon, the Portland Rose Festival is one of the biggest spring festivals in the country. But there are celebrations in smaller destinations, too, including Orange City, Iowa; Nantucket, Massachusetts; Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Rochester, New York.

If you have garden-lovers in your group — or just travelers who are anxious to hit the road again after holing up for the winter — consider making a trip to one of the following great spring festivals and events.

Portland Rose Festival
Portland, Oregon
In 1905, the city of Portland threw a large festival to celebrate the centennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition and held a rose show as part of the proceedings. The floral display proved so popular that the city’s mayor decided it should become an annual event. And thus, the Portland Rose Festival was born.

The centerpiece of this festival is the Grand Floral Parade, which is always held the second Saturday after Memorial Day.

“The parade has been a mainstay since 1907,” said Carol Ross, the festival’s director of marketing and development. “There are about 100 entries each year, everything from all-floral floats to marching bands. Every surface of the floats has to be covered in natural materials.”

The parade attracts throngs of visitors, but groups that plan ahead can steer clear of the crowds in the streets. The festival offers groups special seating inside a local coliseum at the starting point of the parade where they can sit in comfort and watch the entertainers go by. Visitors who arrive early can also witness the coronation of the Rose Festival Queen.

The Grand Floral Float Showcase, which takes place before the parade, gives visitors a chance to see the extravagant parade entries up close. A number of other related events also take place during the two weeks surrounding the parade.

“The rose society does an annual rose show that is a competition of cut roses,” Ross said. “There are also waterfront activities at the Willamette River called the Rose Festival City Fair.”

This year during the festival, Portland Center Stage will be debuting a new musical, “Somewhere in Time.” The production will move on to Broadway after its run in Portland.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.