"Man," noted a Canadian journalist who called this week with some questions, "for a town that's the poster child for a depressed economy due to the fallout from the housing boom and greed era, Bend sure has a lot of entertainment going on all the time."
Ah yes, this is the town with the endless array of entertainment possibilities from downtown fairs/festivals that are interchangeable no matter what season they celebrate to concerts galore, a glut of music in general, art walks, you name it, we got it in spades. So much so, that Bend just might be the most "over-evented" town in American. It could be argued that Minneapolis and Chicago have fewer annual events, concerts and art offerings and both are very cultural metropolises.
I figure that if you attended every "major" concert, play, literary reading, "indy" (the most overworked word in current English)) film debut, you'd be out of pocket about $10,000 a year and that's not including money fro pre and post event dinners, baby sitters, gas, etc.
Bend's race into over-eventing began back in the boom times. The way I figure it those in the event and concert business colluded with local movers and shakers to create the endless entertainment. They did so thinking that if they didn't do so they'd lose all the newbies to town who were used to being entertained all the time in the places they had recently left.
It wasn't good enough to mountain bike, trail run, fly fish and have a martini or local micro-brew at sunset and watch the alpenglow over mountains. No we've got to offer people something to keep them occupied so that they become oblivious to the fact that paradise by the Deschutes just may have a few flaws.
Another major factor in the current over-eventing was those who arrived, looked around, and felt sorry for longtime resident Bendites for having to suffer for decades with mediocre entertainment choices.
These folks decided to save the our populous by bringing "world class" entertainment to town. "We will,” I suspect their thinking went, "lead you to the cultural trough and open your eyes to the wonders of great art, music, literature, theater and more."
And while we're at it, we'll create a cultural arts center in Juniper Ridge where you can pay $50 to $75 per person to the see all matter of world class (there's that phrase again) entertainment.
Soon, one suspects, the bring-culture-to-the-culturally-deprived and mega-performing arts center gang felt that when the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) scheduled its summer tour it would include Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and, of course, Bend.
Back in the pre-boom town dark ages, Bend had only a few festivals, concerts and events. And we, the great unwashed and uncultured looked forward to the small number of events every year. You marked them down on your calendar. They were special and all the more so for being essentially one of a kind.
Was there ever a better summer event than the Pickle Family Circus in Drake Park? I doubt there will ever be anything to match that wonderful troupe's annual performances.
Then there was the old Cascade Festival of Music, the one that included jazz, latin and other musical forms along with the classics. There were some memorable performances at the festival and certainly, despite the current misperception, performed to knowledgeable and hip audiences.
How about Ray Charles at the Inn of the seventh Mountain, Ricky Skaggs at COCC, jazz giant Charlie Byrd at the now long gone Pat and Mikes.
There was also some very good theater at the Community Theater of the Cascades. Now there are six theater companies in town. That's more than Ashland boasts and Ashland is nationally and internationally recognized theater town.
So Bend is heavy on quantity and some could argue weak on quality. But more importantly, how do all those in the local entertainment business make it when there's only so much discretionary income to spread around on entertainment.
It's an even bigger mystery when you consider all the other exceptional, and some truly "world class", entertainment opportunities that lure people to spend their entertainment money outside of Bend. Events like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Bach Festival, The Sisters Folk Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, the Oregon Festival of American Music the Oregon Ballet Theatre, the Oregon Symphony, etc.
Perhaps the local scene will soon become so glutted with events, concerts, festivals etc that it'll finally implode and we'll be back to a dozen good events a year. It'll be cheaper for those whose lives revolve around being entertained. Also those presenting the event/concert/play will potentially make more money.
Until them, layer on the entertainment. And might I suggest a festival called The Mid-Winter Solstice Festival of Lights For Those Who Missed the Umpteenth Other Clone Festivals During The Rest of The Year"