Memories drift to other years as Bend prepares to present its river pageant

Pageant days are here again.

Once more the spotlight turns on the Deschutes and beautiful Drake Park, locale of a three-night fete, on July 2, 3 and 4. This year, memories go back Into the past: The occasion marks anniversaries for both the Mirror Pond and for the park.

It was 50 years ago this summer that water backed up behlnd a new power dam across the Deschutes in Bend and a tree-frlnged, man-made lake formed. Forty years ago Drake Park, named for the founder of Bend, was set aside for public use.

Park and pond have provided for Bend one of the most beautiful settings In all America for a water fete.

Bend was somewhat slow in recognizing the pageant potential of the Mirror Pond, just as early-day residents apparently failed to recognize that the “lake” on the Deschutes would be one of the city’s greatest assets as a tourist attraction.

In distant 1933, the first “pageant” was presented on the Deschutes. It thrilled thousands, but It was crude compared with developments of later years. In that first river show, floats guided by boats moved with the river current. Illumination for  the prize-winnlng float was lantern, on a replica of a drifting covered wagon.

The beautiful arch or glowing hues was a development of later years. Gay floats moved through that giant arch.

They were guided by a long boom, and lighted by electricity.

Last year, it became evident that Bend residents were tiring of the costly arch and floats. Comparatively few local residents attended the 1959 fete. The pageant was presented “in the red.”

So a decision was reached for a change in “format”.. There will be no glowing arch or moving floats this year. Action wlll center on a double stage on the Deschutes, just off picturesque Drake Park. About the only carryover from the arch and float days will be the symbolic mother swan and her bood of six cygnets.

But the new show will be in the same colorful setting, the Deschutes River, under July stars. It was a river that was becalmed 50 years ago when the power dam was built.

Over the Mirror Pond as colored fountains of spray reach up from the river will hang a young moon, with brilliant stars of summer as its escort. In this setting, old pines reach to the river edge. Lawns of homes touch the water.

It is a beautiful show, in a setting with a long history. Bend is mighty proud to serve as host for the colorful pageant of the Deschutes.

Bend’s latchstring is out. May our visitors return in quieter days to view the Deschutes in other moods. They will be welcome.

Source: The Bend Bulletin ©1960

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