Friday, April 18, 2014

Q is for queens and Quimby (Portlandia from A to Z)


In Portland we have two kinds of queens: one wears a gown and travels through the streets of Portland on a floral float, and one wears a gown and travels through the streets of Portland in high heels.

Rose Festival queens and drag queens!

A queen in the 1960s
Since 1907, Portlanders have celebrated in June with the Rose Festival, and since 1930, a queen has been chosen from a court of high school seniors (princesses) from each school in Portland. From 1997 to 2007, they changed the terminology to "ambassador" but reinstated queen and princesses in 2007.

What's different about the Rose Festival court is that it's not a beauty contest. The judges select the "Queen of Rosaria" mostly based on her achievements. Boys participate in the festival by being selected as drivers for the princesses.

The court in recent years
All members of the Rose Festival Court receive a $3,500 scholarship and mentoring, in addition to a complete wardrobe. It's a bit of a throw-back, really, but Portlanders seem to enjoy the spectacle of the coronation and the appearance of the queen and princesses in the major event of the Rose Festival, the Grand Floral Parade. You can view plaques for all the queens from past years in the Rose Gardens at Washington Park.
Rose Festival Queens Walk in Washington Park

Darcelle (on right) with friends
Now onto the other type of queen...Portland has a long history of drag queens, starting with the most-famous -of-all Darcelle XV. Born as Walter Cole in 1930, Darcelle grew up in Portland and was in the military--marrying and having two children. He first wore a woman's dress at the age of 37 and by the age of 39, he became Darcelle and came out as gay. During the 1970s, the Darcelle XV became a Portland household name--the place to go for drag performers. S(he)'s now the oldest female impersonator on the west coast, and Darcelle XV is the longest-surviving drag club in the country. Darcelle is very active in Portland's cultural scene and received the Spirit of Portland Award in 2011. Here's a mini-short about how Walter Cole turns into Darcelle.

If you're not going to a show at Darcelle, one of the best places to see Portland's drag queens out in the open is at the Portland Pride Parade. Apparently we also have a Thai restaurant (Asian fusion) that has all drag queen waitstaff! We have a lot of queens, but we have a shortage of drag kings...

Portland Pride


(as in Ramona!) Ramona the Pest was born right here in NE Portland. Author Beverly Cleary grew up in Portland, where she struggled to learn how to read. By the third grade, though, she discovered her great love of books...thanks to a great teacher and a nurturing librarian, who encouraged her to write her own books someday. She also became a librarian herself. 
Ramona sculture in Grant Park
Her first book was Henry Huggins, published in 1950, about a boy who lived on Klickitat Street in Portland. Beezus and Ramona came next--the Quimby sisters--published in 1955. Cleary went on to write seven additional Ramona stories, along with many other books. 
The author reading Ramona
Portland has honored Beverly Cleary (who is still alive) by naming a school after her, creating a sculpture garden in Grant Park (near Klickitat Street), naming the Central Library's children's library after her, and celebrating Beverly Cleary Month at the library. You can also take a Beverly Cleary tour
Read my other A to Z posts here, and stay tuned for tomorrow: roses, rivers, and recycling.


  1. Love Beverly Cleary! We don't see many drag queens in the middle of Missouri except on Halloween. No offense intended. Just the way it is.

    1. Haha--yes, I imagine we have more drag queens here than in Missouri!

  2. I didn't know that about Ramona or Beverly Cleary. I live in Washington state now, but growing up in Southern California, I assumed Klickitat was a wonderfully fictional name. Now I need to visit that statue.

    1. Yes--you should! Thanks for stopping by!