As of Friday, April 13, 2018
This week, Lisa Farquharson, executive director of The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce, and her crew could be seen running around town dressed in black leggings emblazoned with brightly colored cherries, and even earrings featuring cherry designs.
“You’ve got to have a little fun,” Farquharson said of the outfit.
She sees the colorful attire as just another way to promote the 39th annual Northwest Cherry Festival, April 27-29, which is organized by the chamber to focus attention on the importance of the cherry industry that pours millions into the local economy.
Wasco County holds the proud distinction of being the top producer of sweet cherries in Oregon, a state that supplies 11 percent of the U.S. market.
The Willamette Valley has about 3,200 acres of sweet cherries and the Mid-Columbia region about 12,300 acres.
The cherry festival is a colorful event that will focus even more on the agriculture industry in 2018 with the first-ever job fair on Saturday, April 28, from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the cherry festival entrance, Second and Washington streets. The event is open to the public and people looking for jobs can visit with local growers, producers and orchardists about job opportunities. Oregon Cherry Growers, The Dalles Fruit Company, Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers, Polehn Farms and Orchard View Farms will be in attendance, along with other employers.
The chamber is to be commended for pouring energy into cherry festival planning all year long. “We never put it to bed,” said Farquharson, who has dedicated half the time of Camille Terry, director of events and communications, to festival organization.
The goal, said Farquharson, is to make sure there are new attractions to keep the festival fresh and interesting so it will draw return crowds.
This year, one of the new attractions will be the antique fire truck exhibit between Second and Third streets.
“People who have them are bringing them in for everyone to see,” said Farquharson.
The safety fair in the parking lot of the old J.C. Penney store is bigger and better than ever, with “one stop shopping” for car seat safety checks and information from political parties, health centers, local, county, state and federal agencies and both the Boy and Girl scout programs, as well as The Dalles Sister City Association.
Farquharson said the Sunday afternoon concert at the festival has been extended by several hours, so people can now enjoy musical entertainment until 5 p.m.
The weekend festivities include a pie-eating contest and a dunk tank. Aeroprint has designed T-shirts for people to purchase in a show of support for the community event.
Two age categories have been created for the Cherry Idol contest this year; one for ages 15 and up and the other for 14 and under. There will be prizes for both.
People can follow the Cherry Trail with a special map available on the chamber’s website, www.thedalleschamber.com, or Facebook page, to find great deals at 38 participating businesses.
Although it is difficult to measure the number of people who go to one or more events during the weekend, said Farquharson, the chamber estimates that about 15,000 folks were in attendance in 2017.
Sponsors and vendors cover the cost of the festival, so the chamber can use the transient room tax money it receives from the city for other marketing and promotional efforts, said Farquharson.
The festival draws people together so it is a great place to make social connections.