Two-thirds of Oregon stretches eastward from the Cascade Mountains, but that two-thirds is home to less than 15 percent of the state’s population. The eastern side is further geographically divided, colloquially if not strictly geographically, into Central Oregon and Eastern Oregon, as well as additional delineations, namely Southeast Oregon, Northeast Oregon, and the Columbia Gorge. Central Oregon, home of the hyper-popular city of Bend, holds the majority of Eastern Oregon’s population.
Central/Eastern Oregon Festivals Photo Gallery
The point of all this is that many small, agrarian communities in the eastern half of the state hold unique and imaginative festivals. Small-town festivals in Eastern Oregon tend to draw substantially local crowds, which is truly their charm: outsiders are welcomed, embraced by the residents at these wonderful events that celebrate everything from local culture to local produce and more. Ever-busy Bend notwithstanding, Eastern Oregon differs substantially from densely populated Western Oregon. In eastside towns, from the well-known hubs like John Day, Pendleton, La Grande, and Klamath Falls to off-the-radar towns like Condon, Mitchell, Enterprise, and Lakeview (and many others), life is different, slower paced, friendlier. People say hello on the sidewalks and in the stores, stop to talk, happily engage strangers from out of town, and proudly share what they know about their community. They appreciate out-of-towners able to likewise slow down and learn about the local way of life.
Bend, hub of Central Oregon, marches to its own beat, a fast-growing town of people who love outdoor activities and enjoy an eclectic mix of events. Bend (and nearby Redmond and Sisters) isn’t really Eastern Oregon, but it’s the gateway to Eastern Oregon and offers great festivals. Bend is such a popular tourism destination that reservations are virtually always needed for overnight accommodations, and the earlier the better. Farther east, my bloging a room tends to be easier, though small towns in Eastern Oregon have more limited lodging options, so for festival weekends, my bloging a room well in advance is a good idea. If you’re festival bound to Eastern Oregon, don’t underestimate the drive times, especially for wintertime festivals. Leave plenty early; and plan ample time to visit sights along the way as well as explore the town hosting the festival.
Breweries In The Gorge Holiday Hangover Brew Fest
Elks Lodge, 304 Cascade Avenue
Had enough eggnog, hot toddies, and lousy wine picked out by aunts and uncles you barely know? Did the holiday season wear a little thin? Well, the cure is here, at least for craft beer aficionados: the Breweries in the Gorge Holiday Hangover Brew Fest arrives at exactly the right time to replenish your taste buds with the soothing flavors of some of the best ales brewed in Northwest. The Columbia River Gorge is home to more than a dozen great breweries, all of them united by the nonprofit Breweries in the Gorge (BIG) organization that is dedicated to spreading the word about these craft beer producers and the beautiful area in which they reside. The Holiday Hangover Brew Fest is the group’s signature wintertime event, held each year in mid-January at the Hood River Elks Lodge.
With live music by top area bands and food concessions from local food carts, this festive party includes every member of BIG, from iconic, longstanding breweries to relative newcomers: Full Sail Brewing, Double Mountain Brewery, Big Horse Brewery, Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, and pFriem Family Brewers, all from Hood River;
Thunder Island Brewing in Cascade Locks;
Freebridge Brewing and Sedition Brewing in The Dalles; Solera Brewing in Mount Hood; and Backwoods Brewing, Dwinell Country Ales, Everybody’s Brewing, Walking Man Brewing, and 54° 40’ Brewing Company, all from the Washington side of the Columbia River (expect a few more added to the list as new breweries spring up in this region that is revered by tourists).
Each of the breweries pours a variety of its best beers, including seasonal ales and limited releases, and even ciders. The admission fee to this 21-and-over event ($25 in recent years) includes a commemorative drinking glass and ten drink tickets. Advance-purchase tickets are available online through Mercury Ticketing (see the event website); admission at the door is cash only. The fest runs from noon to 8 pm on Saturday only. The Elks Lodge has a large parking lot, and several other public lots are located within easy walking distance.
Holiday Hangover Brew Fest kicks off Oregon’s beer fest season.
And speaking of walking distance, Downtown Hood River offers all kinds of excellent dining, drinking, and shopping venues, including both Full Sail and Double Mountain breweries and several wine tasting rooms. This picturesque city of about 10,000 people also offers many lodging options. The surrounding area—the heart of the Columbia Gorge—is well worth exploring over a weekend. For information about the area, and help with lodging, consult the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce, www.hoodriver.org.
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