In 1922 the Town Improvement Society approved the idea of a rose garden for the Ella Sharp Park as a memorial to Ella W. Sharp, the donor of 550 acres of land to the city and the first president of the Town Improvement Society. Society members planted roses and developed the garden, which was dedicated in 1926. Five years later, the rose was chosen as the official flower for Jackson and we became the Rose City.
In 1958, Kenneth Bronson and L. James Hilliker decided to organize a Rose Festival during the peak of the rose season, climaxed with a parade from the Jackson County Fair Grounds down Fourth Street, ending at Ella Sharp Park where a family picnic and barbecue were held. In the 1970’s the parade route was changed and started in downtown Jackson at Michigan Ave and Blackstone Street and continued west on Michigan Ave to Brown Street. This route was taken through 2007. In 2008, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rose Festival, the parade route returns to a path of the past when claims of more than 30,000 spectators enjoyed the event. (See “Parade” link at the top of this page for details.)
The Parade is a celebration for local organizations to honor and reward individuals and groups. The Parade allows schools, scouting troops, churches, civic organizations and businesses to promote a positive image of themselves and the Jackson area. The Rose Parade is one of the largest in Michigan with over 100 entries each year.
The selection of a RoseQueen was first added to the program in 1960. The following year a Jackson Rose and Garden Society was organized making one of their functions the sponsorship of the Rose Festival. Over the years, the Festival grew and added more features. Most of the work was done by a few people who expressed the need for more help if the Festival was to continue to grow.
The Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce, because of its business leadership and membership talent, was asked to assume the operation and in 1967 accepted the Rose Festival as one of its projects. At the suggestion of the Board of Directors of the Chamber, the Festival was incorporated as the Jackson County Rose Festival in January 1973 and since that time has operated as an independent organization.
Each year thousands of dollars in scholarships are awarded to young women to help them further their education.
Today the Jackson County Rose Festival is run by a volunteer Board of Directors and supported by donations from many local corporations and businesses. The Festival is responsible for five major events each year; the Jackson County RoseQueen Scholarship Pageant and Afterglow, The Miss Jackson Teen Pageant, Little Miss/Mr. Jackson Pageant, the Rose Parade, the Picnic In The Park, and the Holiday Expo.