Select an event that suits your fancy, and plan your motorhome travels accordingly.
By Rhonda Ostertag
Many RVers plan their travels to coincide with fun events such as festivals, or to pursue their hobbies at pet shows, antiques displays, car rallies, and more. In Oregon, my home state, just about every weekend of the year is booked. Here, folks celebrate everything from raindrops and garlic to Shakespeare and cowboy poets.
Some celebrations feature ethnic diversity; others recognize the work ethic, with farming, fishing, logging, and ranching events. Even the lowly mosquito has its day at a state mosquito festival. Each state, of course, can brag about its events, so in case you’re not headed to Oregon soon, let this serve as inspiration to pull out a tourism calendar from another state and start dreaming.
The fine part about festivals is travelers can simply spend a few hours at an affair while on the way to another place or the event can be its own destination. Surfing the Internet can produce a bevy of ideas. Then, too, there is always the pleasure of just stumbling upon an ongoing celebration and joining in the gaiety.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival. The Willamette Valley is the fertile Eden located at the end of the Oregon Trail. Besides many fine edibles, the valley bursts with blooms. At the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn (about midway between Portland and Salem), tulips and sunny daffodils take center stage. The farm welcomes guests to stroll the display gardens and mowed tracks along open fields. The viewing runs from March 25 through April 26, 2009, and admission is free. A modest vehicle fee is charged on weekends. Special weekend attractions may include wine tastings, pony rides, wooden-shoe making, music, food, and crafts.
More than 40 acres of flowers here guarantee plenty of color. Photographers with heavy tripods and high-end lenses compete for camera angles with point-and-shoot enthusiasts and excited video directors. Variety names can be as colorful as the flowers they identify: “Arabian Mystery,” “Flaming Parrot,” and “Zombie.” More information: http://www.woodenshoe.com/; (503) 634-2243.
Flower fanciers who can’t make the March or April festivities can go to Keizer (at the north end of Salem) for its annual Iris Festival in May. This event fills the little town with art shows, a cut flower show, a parade, craft booths, garden demonstrations, and music. Central to the festivity is Schreiner’s Iris Gardens, one of the nation’s largest retail iris growers, with more than 500 varieties on 10 acres. The display garden is open throughout May and early June.
Another flower producer, Cooley’s Gardens (located just outside Silverton, 9 miles east of Salem), also opens its iris fields and offers a cut flower show. For more information: http://www.irisfestival.com/; (503) 393-9111.
Beginning in August, travelers can check out Swan Island Dahlias in Canby. This grower welcomes tours throughout August and September, with ample parking. Their specialty flower is highlighted at a Dahlia Festival, which will be held August 29, 30, and 31 and September 5, 6, and 7 in 2009. During the event there are food booths, refreshments, and floral arranging demonstrations. Forty acres show off the bloom, from whopping big pompons to dwarf-size gems, and in a rainbow of bright vivacious colors as well as blistering white. More information: http://www.dahlias.com/; (800) 410-6540.
Using Natural Materials
Plenty of happenings take place at the Linn County Pioneer Picnic, in Brownsville (central Willamette Valley). One that stands out as rather unusual is the Loggers’ Jamboree. It puts together local and national amateurs with nationally competing professionals for a friendly test of skills and the passing of knowledge. Cheers of encouragement from friends and family alternate with periods of respectful silence.
At this small-town carnival, bring a lawn chair, because events can stretch out over three hours. Competitions include the ax throw, single- and double-buck saw, standing block chop, underhand chop, springboard and double springboard chop, peavey log roll (where loggers use a traditional lumberjack tool to hook and rotate logs up a ramp), choker set, obstacle pole, and Jack-and-Jill sawing (where loggers and their ladies work the saw). It provides non-woodsmen a chance to see the traditional skills associated with early logging, skills now mostly reserved for competition. Although this festival has novice events, the blades are just as sharp and the wood chips fly just as furiously. The 2009 Pioneer Picnic is set to take place July 19, 20, and 21. For more information: http://www.historicbrownsville.com/; (541) 466-5709.
Some of us equate lightning strikes to great ideas. But in Cannon Beach, it was the tsunami of 1964, which in 1965 resulted in the lowest tides in a century, that gets credit for the first annual sand castle contest. This event has only grown in popularity. The 45th annual Cannon Beach Sandcastle Day will be held on June 13, 2009.
Sand construction has come a long way from the days of using paper cups to make turrets. Many creations are architectural or fanciful. Equipped with detailed sketches (some with clay models), teams of artisans hit the sand. Entrants have from four to six hours to complete their creations. Shovels, rakes, carving tools, wooden and plastic supports, watering cans and spritzer bottles, brushes, and even feather dusters unlock the art from the sand.
In this fleeting gallery, subjects range from the elaborate to the simplistic, the ludicrous to the lovely. Even political commentary makes an appearance, but all in good taste. High tide returns the art to sand, the gallery to beach. But motorhomers will want to linger awhile longer to avoid the inevitable traffic tie-up that follows the event’s end. For more information: http://www.cannonbeach.org/; (503) 436-2623.
Old-Fashioned Fourth of July, Wallowa. In tiny Wallowa, in the mountains of northeast Oregon, things get hopping with the Fourth of July parade. The entire town shows up “”most of them in the parade itself. One gray-haired local said with a chuckle, “Yep, the problem with a small-town parade is that everyone in town is in it, leaving no one to watch.” But at parade time, plenty of townspeople and travelers alike line the streets to cheer on the procession.
Part of the fun is watching the pre-parade fuss. About an hour before start time, the entrants begin to file into town from outlying ranches. Youngsters ride in on horses and donkeys or lead neatly groomed sheep and goats. Red, white, and blue ribbons and small flags adorn the animals’ necks, ears, and tails. Elsewhere, hay wagons, antique tractors, carts, and a fire truck roll into town. Some are already decorated; others receive the last-minute banners and flags at the staging area. At another spot, parents struggle to keep an Uncle Sam hat on a squirming lad and the preschoolers in the barrel seats of a tractor-pulled train.
When the procession starts rolling, everyone and everything shows patriotic colors. And after dark, fireworks are set off at Wallowa Lake, creating beautiful reflections. Information: http://www.wallowacountychamber.com/; (800) 585-4121.
Hells Canyon Junior Rodeo, Halfway (eastern Oregon). Rodeos occur throughout the state, some professional, some local. But a children’s rodeo can be the most fun. This one has youngsters in full attire. Young cowboys throw all their effort into the events. Pole bending, dummy roping, and goat-tail tying keep the Pee Wees (ages 6 to 8) busy, while such events as breakaway and team roping, calf roping, saddle and bareback bronco riding, and barrel racing engage the junior and senior divisions. Of course, buckles are the prizes these youngsters compete to win.
Filled with people from outlying ranches and nearby towns, the stands buzz with the latest gossip and commentary on who excels at barrels or sticks like glue to their bucking bronco. For this particular rodeo, events take place simultaneously, with the littlest ones participating in the outside track; juniors and seniors claim center ring.
The legs of some kids barely span the backs of their mounts. Parents assist the tiniest tots, leading them on horses down the track, helping them off and coaching them on. One little girl faced the daunting task of removing a ribbon from the tail of a picketed, but fidgety, goat. On each approach, the goat’s tail would wag with electric speed, shooing the girl back. Mom coaxed her into several attempts, but in the end, it was the goat who finally liberated the ribbon, sending it flying. In a flash, the girl snapped it up, and threw her arms skyward in triumph. Sometimes, victories are a little different than organizers envision. The rodeo takes place each year in mid-July. Information: http://www.hcjrrodeo.com/; (541) 742-4222.
Of course, many more events are included on the state’s yearly calendar listing; we simply don’t have room for them all. For more information, contact the Oregon Tourism Commission, 670 Hawthorne Ave. S.E., Suite 240, Salem, OR 97301-6884; (800) 547-7842; http://www.traveloregon.com/.
Following are a few more ideas to help you get started.
Winter and/or long-running
“Finders Keepers” Glass Floats on the Beach, Lincoln City. October to Memorial Day. (800) 452-2151, http://www.oregoncoast.org/.
Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto, Portland. November 28 through December 30, 2009. (503) 261-2400; http://www.thegrotto.org/.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland. Mid-February through November 1. (541) 482-4331; http://www.osfashland.org/.
Cinco de Mayo Fiesta!, Portland. Early May. (503) 232-7550; http://www.cincodemayo.org/
102nd Annual Rhododendron Festival, Florence. Third week of May. (800) 524-4864; http://www.florencechamber.com/
Boatnik, Grants Pass. Memorial Day Weekend; (800) 547-5927; http://www.boatnik.com/
Chainsaw Sculpting Championship, Reedsport. Mid-June. (800) 247-2155; http://www.odcsc.com/
Annual Dory Days, Pacific City. Mid-July. (888) 549-2632; http://www.pcnvchamber.org/
Balloons Over Bend, Bend. June 5-7, 2009. (541) 323-0964; http://www.ballonsoverbend.com/
Annual Indian-style Salmon Bake, Depoe Bay. Third Saturday in September. (877) 485-8348; http://www.depoebaychamber.org/
Oktoberfest, Mount Angel. September 17-20, 2009. (503) 845-9440; http://www.oktoberfest.org/
Fall Kite Festival, Lincoln City. October 10-11, 2009. (800) 452-2151; http://www.oregoncoast.org/