Fleet of Flowers 79

There’s a square, wooden building the overlooks the harbor in Depoe Bay, on Bay St. just shy of the U.S. Coast Guard station. It’s the Depoe Bay Community Center, the location of crab feeds, chamber of commerce dinners and the like. In the week before Memorial Day, every May, this quiet clubhouse filled with flowers, boughs and blossoms by the thousands. This is where the volunteers assemble the garlands and bouquets for Depoe Bay’s annual Fleet of Flowers.

They’ve been going through this ritual for 66 years now, so they’ve got it down to a science. One team goes into the nearby woods, and brings back truckloads of cedar boughs. Another installs the wooden racks and tables, which are designed to make the most of every square inch of this small community center. On Tuesday, bough assembly begins; on Saturday, donated and purchased flowers are attached to each one. By Sunday evening, walking into the Depoe Bay Community Center is like entering a rainforest. When you get close, you can see that many of the garlands bear tags, because they were made in honor of special people, by request.

On Monday, Memorial Day, the forest is removed as the bouquets are loaded onto vessels in the harbor. After a moving dockside ceremony, the fleet procession sails through “the Gap,” under the Depoe Bay Bridge. One half-mile out, passengers toss the flowers into the water, in honor of those lost at sea or have served in our Armed Forces.

It’s a lot of work for a small town (pop. 1,500), but the volunteers who do it are proud to offer this tribute. To see it for yourself, be in Depoe Bay at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 30.

To learn about the origins, here’s my 2010 historical story: http://www.oregoncoasttoday.com/fleetofflowers.html

Niki Price is the editor and co-owner of Oregon Coast Today, a weekly newspaper covering arts, entertainment and the environment on the central Oregon coast. She roams the shores from Yachats north to Rockaway, covering everything from pelican proliferation to proffered profiteroles, with two underage editorial assistants often in tow. To follow them, and the TODAY, check out their Twitter feed and Facebook fan site.

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