Around noon on Sunday, July 28, a couple thousand people will climb into inner-tubes and other human-powered watercraft and set sail down the Willamette River in downtown Portland. This merry flotilla and party afterwards is known as The Big Float 3.
The goal is to encourage local folks to “get into their river,” now that it is safe for swimming, and give the Willamette a collective hug after years of mistreatment and misunderstanding.
This year, instead of crossing the river as in year’s past, the flotilla will land at the Tom McCall bowl on the west bank just south of Hawthorne Bridge. Here, Portland’s grandest first beach party will be held, complete with a music barge and three bands, food carts, beer garden, free chair massages, changing rooms with check-in for valuables, and a kids’ activity area where the Grand Ronde Tribes Native American crafts will be displayed.
TBF 3 begins with a floaters parade led by the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers. Tubers will launch their watercraft at Marquam Beach beneath the Marquam bridge, and land at a newly-created west bank beach area, “unrocked” by TBF volunteers last fall. Prizes will be awarded for “Best-of-Cruise Costume” and most “Outlandish Watercraft”.
The event is a fundraiser for the Human Access Project, a new not-for-profit formed to improve access to the river, raise awareness that it is safe for swimming and recreation, and transform Portland’s relationship with it (humanaccessproject.com).
The Big Float is open to all ages and all floaters must wear a life jacket (it’s a safe voyage, not a race). A limited number of life jackets and inner-tubes are for sale on site. During pre-registration (through July 7) the cost to participate is $5. After that, registration is $8. For more information and to register, go to thebigfloat.com. Join the “riverlution” and get into the river. It belongs to all of us.