Creative events improve local scene
Regarding the recently staged Hells Canyon Relay, maybe the most gratifying thing to see was the captions under the pictures in the newspapers.
Those captions told us that runners in this mother-of-all-footraces came from all over Oregon and from points across the USA. That means the first-ever event actually attracted outsiders to our ever-beautiful but often underrated part of the world, gave them the chance to experience our fine late-summer weather, our endless mountain vistas and our friendly small towns.
Word of mouth has always been the cheapest and best advertising. Those people will take that experience home with them and share it. Hopefully more will be inspired to pay Northeast Oregon a visit.
The relay, staged by Smith Rock Race Group and supported by many local groups and individuals, pulled in 34 teams, men and women wanting to test themselves in a race billed as the longest of its kind in North and South America.
One elite team ran 286 miles, and 30 other teams went 210 miles. Three walking teams did 148 miles. Figure an average of 10 people per team, then add in support personnel, family members and other interested parties, and you come up with hundreds of participants and a nice little shot in the arm for our restaurants, hotels and motels, and other tourism-related businesses.
Not only that, in the three counties the race course hit, the relay raised some $20,500 for non-profit charities. That included $7,800 for the Imbler grade school with a unique raffle called cow-pie bingo.
For an inaugural running, the relay did well indeed. Given that it is one of the most challenging happenings of its kind anywhere, it should grow as the word spreads.
Part of the prescription for an ailing local economy is a tourist industry stimulated by exciting events. We’ve got a long way to go before we’re a truly vibrant visitor destination, but the good news is people are working on it.
The Hells Canyon Relay is one example. Other events created in the last couple of years to improve the local scene include the Celtic Society of Eastern Oregon’s Celtic Festival and the American Legion’s Blue Pine Motorcycle Rally.
We’re on the right track. Let’s keep going — and growing.