Portland’s The Big Float to celebrate 10th and final year

Dozens of people float down the Willamette River for The Big Float on inflatables of all different shapes, including swans, pelicans, dragons, and unicorns.

We’ll never forget The Big Float — it was tubular.

The Big Float, an annual summer tradition here in Portland, is throwing one last big hurrah on Sun., July 10.

Every year, the event attracts scores of people eager to jump into the Willamette River + celebrate the season. They descend upon Tom McCall Bowl Beach, many wearing festive costumes, with flotations of all shapes and sizes, from simple inner tubes to exotic inflatable unicorns.

As one, the group embarks upon a parade to Poet’s Beach under the Marquam Bridge, where they gracefully or not-so-gracefully jump aboard their floats + paddle out to the middle of the river. From there, it’s just a matter of leisurely riding the current back to the Bowl. And avoiding sunburns.

After the float, people can enjoy live music + a beach party, complete with several food carts, drinks, and a swimming area — for those who haven’t had their fill.

An aerial view of The Big Float as hundreds of people float on the Willamette River as it cuts through the heart of Portland.

Jujuba + Dusty 45’s will perform on The Main Stage this year. | Photo by @thebigfloat

Proceeds from the event benefit Human Access Project, which started when founder Willie Levenson wanted to swim in the river. It grew into a volunteer-driven river advocacy nonprofit that has spent the last 10 years helping to restore the river and improve access. Willie told KATU that The Big Float has accomplished its goal: changing the community’s relationship with the Willamette by opening two beaches, cleaning 25 tons of concrete from Cathedral Park + more.

We aren’t crying, these are just waterdrops from us practicing our swimming. *Inconspicuously wipes away tears*

Want to join The Big Float’s “last blast?” You’ll need to register ahead of time: Tickets start at $6 for kids under age 18 and $13 for adults who sign up by Thurs., July 9; the price increases to $15 on the day-of. Gates open at 10 a.m., the inner tube parade starts at 12:30 p.m., and the party ends at 6 p.m. Life vests are required.

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