Visit the Deschutes County Fairgrounds on Thursday, and you might be surprised to see some white stuff under the clear blue skies.
Around 30 truckloads of snow from Mt. Bachelor were dumped in the field outside the High Desert Events Center for this year’s Oregon WinterFest, which commences Friday and runs through Sunday.
Aaron Switzer, Producer for event host Lay It Out Events, believes this is WinterFest’s 23rd year.
“We have been looking for a way to really expand the footprint,” he said. “And our most recent home in The Old Mill by the amphitheater is under construction this year, so a combination of things led us to this incredible venue.”
The event started in the Mirror Pond parking lot in Downtown Bend, then eventually moved to Drake Park, and then to the site near the Hayden Homes Amphitheater.
This is the first venue change in 10 years, and the extra space is allowing for an even bigger variety of attractions.
There will be 14 musical acts over the course of the festival, including heavy metal band Quiet Riot and hip hop group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
More than 300 vendors will also be set up throughout the space.
“Probably double the amount of last year because we’re in a much bigger space,” said one of the Lay It Out Events directors Leann Schoales.
“There’s all sorts of restaurants, artist vendors, ice sculptors, iron workers that do all the fire pits. We have quite a few varieties of artists that are selling art, ceramics, jewelry, all sorts of cool things this year.”
She added that nearly 75% of the vendors are new to the event this year.
The Rail Jam events will happen on a course crafted with the snow from Mt. Bachelor, resting on top of a scaffolding structure, hay bales, and barrels.
“This year we used a lot of hay because we didn’t know how much snow we were going to get, and hay takes up a lot of space,” said the course designer Pete Alport.
He said they’re expecting a sizable crowd of both competitors and spectators.
“Snowboarding will be Friday night, and there will be 30 to 40 competitors. Skiing is Saturday night, there will probably be 20-plus skiers for that,” he said.
Lay It Out Events expect more than 25,000 people to attend this year’s festival.
Oregon’s indoors mask requirements will be followed inside the three buildings that will be used, which will all have centralized heating.
“One thing that’s incredible about this venue is it offers something for everybody,” Switzer said. “Whatever your comfort level is, you’ll be able to enjoy the rail jam and Sparks outdoor stage and lots of other family activities…and then if you mask up you can go indoors and see the artists and the wonderland marketplace.”
The location change means more opportunities for the community, and the region, to attend.
“I think the venue’s ten times better than The Old Mill because of the views and expansiveness,” Alport said.
“Easier access from Portland, Redmond, and Prineville…certainly excited about having this thing a little bit closer, so I think it’s going to be just great and as we expand, it’ll expand it’s impact to the community,” Switzer added.
Another new feature is an expansion of their light art and structures throughout the space, including a series of sparkling, light-up trees in the evenings.
“This is something we’ve never had at the event before, so from the time you walk through the gate to the time you get the concert venue you’ll be walking through a pretty magical place,” Switzer said.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate, and they can be used throughout the duration of the festival.
Adults: $17 online, $20 at the door
Kids: $10 online, $12 at the door