The 63rd Azalea Festival Park Program kicked off at 1 p.m. Saturday with bagpipes and jigs, courtesy of the Eugene Highlanders Pipe Band.

Program Master of Ceremonies Steve Braun, from KURY Radio, remembered watching the Highlanders at the first Azalea Festival he attended, in 1968.

He said they were a festival fixture from the 1950s to 1974, and may become one again, thanks to $3,500 in donations from area businessmen.

An account has been established at Umpqua Bank to bring the pipers back.

Braun called the band andquot;a marvelous part of Azalea Festival history.andquot; He said three of the band's founding members were here this year.

The crowd, spread out on the Azalea Park hillside in front of the stage, showed its appreciation by clapping and cheering in time with some numbers.

The pipers performed favorite tunes such as andquot;Scotland the Braveandquot; and andquot;Amazing Grace.andquot; The band also featured several dances from Scotland and Ireland.

Braun then introduced area county, city, port, and chamber of commerce leaders.

Brookings Mayor Bob Hagbom welcomed everyone, especially those from out of town.

He said he ran into one woman from Pocatello, Idaho, who found Brookings on the Internet.

Next up was Les Cohen, who now has one of the longest titles on record: executive director of the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce and president of the Oregon Chamber Executives Board.

Cohen said the park had an abundance of Azaleas for the festival this year. He invited everyone back to the park for the summer's nine free American Music Festival concerts, beginning June 9.

Cohen introduced Grand Marshal Frenchy Arrell and his wife, Maxine. He said Arrell, one of the first pharmacists in the area, was almost single-handedly responsible for starting an ambulance service in Brookings.

Arrell was most proud of having started an andquot;on-demandandquot; blood bank. He said a doctor once called him to come down and give blood in an emergency.

Arrell was later joined by other donors. He recorded their blood types so they could be called when needed.

He said nearly 1,000 pints of blood were given through program, saving many lives.

andquot;It was one of the best things happened down here,andquot; he said.

Vern Garvin, of KURY Radio, introduced the festival's Pioneer Citizens: Ted and Doris Freeman. Garvin asked Doris to relate how she met Ted. She said Ted was hauling a bull for her father.

She had an electric cattle-prod to help with the loading of the bull, which she used instead on Ted.

andquot;He chased me all over,andquot; she said, andquot;and he caught me.andquot;

The two have five children. andquot;All pretty darn good kids,andquot; said Ted. Then he said he hoped they hadn't heard , because he didn't want them getting swelled heads.

Next up was the 2002 Azalea Festival Court. Queen Iris Wraith was escorted down the grassy slope to the stage by her father, Tom.

She was followed by Princess Bobbi Jo Carter with father, Bo, Princess Danielle Lawrence and father, Harry, Princess Erin Rose Gardner and father, Sterling, and Princess Michelle Fugere and father, Robert.

Wraith thanked the community for its support. She said she was especially grateful Saturday for her sturdy cape, which held up no matter how many times she stepped on it.

Cohen called the parade andquot;one of the best ever, one of the largest in recent years.andquot; He called the crowd watching the parade andquot;phenomenal.andquot; He announced the parade awards while Hagbom handed out the trophies.

The President's Award for Best Use of Flowers went to the Azalea Festival Court float. Wraith said the court insisted on using real Azaleas on the float this year.

The Grand Marshal's Award for the Best Use of Special Effects went to the Seacrest Bonsai Club.

The Queen's Award for the Best Use of Color went to the Brookings Church of the Nazarene.

The Mayor's Award for the Most Original Float went to the Curry Good Samaritan Center.

The Best Overall Sweepstakes Trophy went to the Great Beginnings Preschool and Childcare, for the second year in a row. Hagbom was swamped by happy kids.

In the category awards, the best band trophy went to Azalea Middle School. The best equestrian entry went to the Talk to the Hoof riding club.

The best group or single float went to the Bandon Cranberry Court. When no one came forward to accept the trophy, Cohen punned, andquot;They must be bogged down somewhere.andquot;

The best antique and classic car entry went to the Brookings-Harbor Lions Club.