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Editorial: Put your cowboy boots on

If you have noticed The Dalles seems to contain a few more cowboys than usual, you’re right. Fort Dalles Days are upon us once again.

Even if you have missed the first few days of celebrations, you still have about five days left to join in the fun. In fact, we encourage it. Fort Dalles Days events are the perfect opportunity to celebrate our town’s roots.

Even if you’re not that into history, you can still be proud of the fact that our town comes from an interesting heritage.

We can boast living amongst hills that have seen thousands of years of Native American history, a Lewis and Clark campsite, European fur trappers, a Methodist mission, an army fort, a thriving boomtown and the end of the Oregon Trail.

The Dalles was an integral part of the history of the West long before most towns were even thought of.

Even our more recent history is colorful.

Not many cities can say they were the target of a mass bioterrorism attack in a plot to take over the county. None can, actually, besides us. It may be a dubious distinction but it’s one we can call our own.

The history of The Dalles is something we tend to take for granted. So many residents can only see empty storefronts and old houses — they don’t realize that there are a lot of visitors who think we’re, well, cool.

Those visitors come to The Dalles on purpose, not merely because it is a convenient stopping point on Interstate 84. They step off the cruise ships, delighted to be greeted by the Fort Dalles floozies and eager to explore the Discovery Center. They plan their trip from Portland to Maryhill Museum with a stop at unique wineries like the Sunshine Mill. They come with fellow history enthusiasts to see the Fort Dalles Museum and the original Wasco County Courthouse, or stop off for lunch because they wanted a closer look at St. Peter’s Landmark. They remember the 2011 Oregonian article that described The Dalles as “aged to perfection” and enthused that “Hood River should be so lucky.”

The Dalles is certainly not perfect, but those who can’t seem to do anything but complain about it need to open their eyes. A dose of Fort Dalles Days activities might just do the trick.

Celebrating our past also gives us an opportunity to ponder what we might do to restore The Dalles to its former glory as a major player in the Pacific Northwest. Our city has so much potential, but there is more to be done to capitalize on its unique aspects.

The men and women who have poured their heart and soul into reviving it in the past few years deserve our gratitude, but they also deserve our help.

So come down to the rodeo, the kids’ pioneer camp, the museums, the parade, the Cowboy Breakfast, the tours, the open houses, the Pulpit Rock revival or one of the other activities in store.

Maybe you’ll be inspired.

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