Nothing says summer like a float down the river, or the sound of an ice cream truck crawling through neighborhoods playing a tinny rendition of "Do Your Ears Hang Low?"
The Barge, which officially launched last weekend, combines those summer essentials with what is essentially a floating ice cream truck. Anchored just upstream from the Columbia Bridge on the left, the sweet treat start-up is only accessible from the river. It's a float-through, so to speak, complete with a floating rope for floaters to grab onto as they wait in line.
The Barge is the brainchild of Tiffany Libby and her husband Matthew, who say the idea emerged out of a creative brainstorming inspired by summer's simple pleasures and Bend community values.
"This business concept gained a lot of support and was within our reach," Tiffany explains. "But ultimately, all that this community already stands for has been an inspiration: creativity, beauty, recreation and ingenuity."
Though the name suggests a sea-worthy vessel, The Barge is an inflatable raft, loaded up with cold confections. And as far as Tiffany can tell, it may be the first of its kind.
"When I spoke with a lady at the Oregon State Marine Board she was excited for my idea," she explains. "[She'd] had others in the past asking about a similar idea of a floating concession for the Portland area, but never heard if any of them ever happened."
In case anyone is considering a copycat venture, Tiffany notes that there were a few hoops to jump through to get the go-ahead. In addition to obtaining a business license from the City, she checked in with Bend Park and Recreation, The Oregon Marine Board, The Deschutes National Forest, and other Deschutes River stakeholders to ensure The Barge met all the applicable codes and regulations.
Tiffany is no stranger to creative endeavors, but she says this is the first time she's operated a business of this type, and on this scale.
"My professional background is in outdoor leadership, youth camps and education, music education and music artistry," she explains. "I have a small artistic business creating unique signs and pieces called Turquoise Designs that I run out of my home."
That background in outdoor leadership feeds into The Barge's emphasis on river stewardship and leaving no trace. Aside from encouraging visitors to dispose of their trash responsibly, The Barge also aims to send floaters off with as little rubbish as possible.
"We would love to see the community continue to enjoy a beautiful and clean river and so we ask that you would leave all packaging with us on The Barge," Tiffany says.
The only packaging floaters take with them is the biodegradable sticks in the frozen fruit bars, which she still encourages people to dispose of after take out. And that interest in sustainability extends even to the products being offered, which emphasize locally-made, organic, and natural ingredients.
"Soon I will even have a cookie sandwich from Portland that is gluten free and vegan," Matthew says. "Right now, I carry 'The Groove' ice cream sandwiches made locally out of Portland, Organic Fruit Bars, and Haagen-Dazs bars. Nothing we have will have corn syrups, artificial flavors, or artificial colors."
And while summer is beginning to fade away, The Barge is going out with a bang. The floating pit stop will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 2 to 5 pm until September 19.
To keep tabs on The Barge's whereabouts and offerings,