Oregon Main Street Highlight – Bandon
This post is part of a series celebrating Oregon Main Street’s ten years of downtown revitalization. Throughout the year we will be highlighting some of our Main Street network communities and the great work they are doing. You can learn more about Oregon Main Street here. Main Street efforts in Bandon are being carried out by the Greater Bandon Association and here is a snapshot into the work they are doing.
Just a few short weekends ago, Bandon’s gorse plants were in full bloom. Vibrant yellow swaths of this despised, prickly plant cover a huge part of Bandon. Gorse is an invasive, highly flammable, painful and difficult to remove plant. We don’t like it. We might even say we HATE it. But, we decided to celebrate it. We’re using our lemons, and making REALLY good lemonade.
It all started when a Greater Bandon Association board member had a grand idea for an off-season festival. It took about two years and a ton of volunteer effort to bring her dreams to reality. Greater Bandon Association and the Chamber of Commerce provided seed money to make the event possible. The Gorse Blossom Festival celebr(hated) gorse with a historical display of gorse and the fires it has caused (courtesy of the historical museum), a life-size dart board of Lord Bennett (the founder of Bandon and bringer of gorse), and displays from our local Gorse Action Group and Go Native! project.
But, the real purpose of this festival was to celebrate seafood, beer, and wine from all over Oregon and bring visitors to our charming coastal town in the dark, wet, cold days of February. We packed our motels, restaurants and shops, served up some great entertainment, and had a magical three-day festival full of fun!
The event was hosted inside our old fisheries plant building on the Bayfront, a Port of Bandon property. The inside was transformed into a festival paradise with giant remote-controlled fish swimming around the ceiling, twinkle lights draped from end to end, and forty beer, wine, and seafood vendors, all with the backdrop of local musicians and the South Coast Film Festival. Our nights ended with entertainment. Fire dancers one night, a Presidential pub crawl another, and on Sunday, an early morning Bloody Mary stroll where participants collected 20 garnishes from Old Town businesses before entering the festival for the final, and most critical, ingredient. We also hosted brewmaker and winemaker dinners in our downtown restaurants in the evenings. We sure had one heck of a good time!
We’re lucky to live in a place with such a vibrant history, funky culture, and willingness to try new things. Without the innovation of our brilliant board members, this event would not have succeeded. It was the quirky, “outside the box” thinking that made this event so special and the more bizarre our ideas got, the more popular the event became! The goal was to get visitors to our town and into our businesses during the off-season and we certainly accomplished that goal in a fun and inventive way. If you want to learn more about the Gorse Blossom Festival, please visit the website at www.gorseblossomfest.com!