Just when you feel saturated with presidential campaign stories, here’s another one.
In the 1928 presidential election, Frank T. Johns was the nominee on the Socialist Labor Party ticket in a race dominated by major party leaders Herbert Hoover and Al Smith. Johns kicked off his campaign on May 20 with a speech in the central Oregon town of Bend at a downtown park along the Deschutes River.
At the end of the speech, during a Q and A session, cries rang out from the crowd when a small boy fell from a foot-bridge into the river. The candidate leaped into the water to save the boy but, alas, both were swept away in the river’s swift current.
Today’s Drake Park is far less exciting. Only the antics of squabbling geese and ducks disturb this shady, serene oasis a block from bustling downtown. A pathway here along the Deschutes River offers benches for relaxing, and views of willows and stately homes on the opposite side. Bend is fortunate to have such an attractive river running through it and it defines much of the town.
During pioneer days, an easy ford across the Deschutes River gave the area the name Farewell Bend which was shortened to Bend when the town was incorporated in 1905. For years, the pine forests to the south and east pro-vided the economic resources to turn Bend into a major log-ging center with several large, competing sawmills.
However, by the 1940s, it became apparent that the supply of timber could not sustain Bend’s sawmills, and an era of mergers and closures began. The largest mill, Brooks-Scanlan, remained active until the 1980s and closed in 1994.
While wood products remain the largest industry, tourism has become a close second with Bend promoting itself as a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies.
With its sunny weather (300 days a year), attractive setting between the Cascade Mount-ains and high desert landscape, Bend has something for everyone.
The Deschutes River and Cascade Lakes south of town offer rafting, kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing; close-by Mount Bachelor is home to winter sports; and the surrounding forests create a play-ground for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and camping.
In addition to golfing, the town’s other main activity seems to be drinking. Bend has earned the reputation of hav-ing one of the best craft beer scenes in the country, and is sometimes referred to as Beer Town, USA.
It has more breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon and promotes a Bend Ale Trail featuring visits to microbreweries. If beer is not your beverage, fear not; Bend has three distilleries and several craft cideries and wineries.
Recreational shopping and dining are two more heavily promoted activities on the things-to-do-in-Bend lists. The compact downtown is filled with boutiques, art galleries, one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, and a 1940s Art Deco movie theater renovated as a performing arts stage.
The other major shopping/dining area is the Old Mill District located in the repur-posed Brooks-Scanlon saw-mill, its trio of tall, silver smokestacks marking the spot. Most of the shops are familiar brand-name retailers, but its location on the Deschutes River provides a pleasant set-ting for riverside dining. A flag-festooned footbridge con-nects walking trails on both sides of the river.
Another must do is a visit to the High Desert Museum, seven miles south of town. Sprawling out over 135 acres, the museum features both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Paths meander through the pine forest connecting the Birds of Prey Center with the river otters exhibit, 1904 Miller Family Ranch, sheep-herder’s cabin, and The Changing Forest display.
Inside, permanent exhibits include tribal and Western his-tory, local geology and natural history as well as special exhibits. Currently running is a collection of art inspired by the Great Depression, and a history of firefighting smoke-jumpers.
You can learn more about Bend at visitbend.com.