Once upon a time, in the city of Portland, there was a little girl named Sue who wanted to grow up to be a Royal Rosarian. All of her friends wanted to be Rose Festival Princesses, but Sue wanted to be a Royal Rosarian – and the Rosarians didn’t even allow women into their ranks at that time. Flash forward a couple of decades and, in the late 80’s, the Royal Rosarians changed their charter to allow women as members. Flash forward another decade and Sue, now all grown-up, becomes a member of the Royal Rosarians – seemingly a dream come true. But wait, the beauty of dreams is that they can be expanded and there is more to this story.
The Royal Rosarians are a civic organization founded in 1912. By mayoral proclamation, they are the official greeters and ambassadors for the city of Portland. Most Portlanders recognize them as the folks in the white suits who march alongside the bands and floats in the Rose Festival’s Grand Floral Parade. While they are, perhaps, most noticeable in that role, their activities actually run throughout the year and include not only greeting visiting dignitaries, but also taking Portland’s message of goodwill to cities and communities throughout the region and, in fact, around the world. The Royal Rosarians also provide other civic services – a few years ago they helped sponsor the Portland High School Band that marched in the Grand Floral Parade when the Portland area high schools had to eliminate their music programs because of budget cuts; last year they helped to provide over a thousand area school children with backpacks and school supplies to help these children have a good start to their school year. Royal Rosarians each foot the bill for their travel and other organizational expenses; this is an organization filled with pride, honor and civic responsibility.
Now, for the rest of Sue’s story. The Royal Rosarians are run by a council of members— some elected, some appointed; that council is lead by the Prime Minister. To become Prime Minister a person must work his or her way up through the ranks; this is not an easy position to attain. Saturday night my husband and I attended the Royal Rosarians’ Coronation Ceremony where our friend Sue was named the 2009-2010 Prime Minister for Portland’s Royal Rosarians – what was especially significant and special about this event is that Sue is the first woman to hold the position of Prime Minister. Almost 100 years after the formation of this organization and only twenty years after women were first admitted, Prime Minister Sue stood on the stage receiving the standing ovation and adoration of hundreds of friends, family and fellow Rosarians. Saturday evening, in the mythical realm of Rosaria, a fairy tale came true.