2021 Event Brought Boost of Art, Culture & Economic Vitality to Downtown Streets
First Interstate Bank Bend Fall Festival returned to the streets of downtown Bend earlier this month in a celebration that drew more than 40,000 attendees, a dozen live music acts and more than 150 vendors and artists in answer to the community’s call for diverse art and culture after a one-year hiatus of the signature event due to the pandemic.
The 2021 event raised $2,000 for Saving Grace — this year’s charitable beneficiary of the event — and generated more than half a million in earnings for participating vendors and artisans, in addition to the economic benefits felt by downtown businesses, local restaurants and lodging providers who also saw a bump in exposure and revenue from the signature community celebration.
“For more than 30 years, Fall Festival has welcomed our entire community to the streets of downtown Bend for music, food and art experiences accessible for all ages,” said Aaron Switzer, founder of Lay it Out Events, which hosts Fall Festival and Summer Festival in downtown Bend. “The opportunity to remain socially distanced at the event, along with our readily available hand-washing stations made the festival safe as well as fun.”
Art was a greater focus than ever before at the long-standing community event, with more than 1,000 pumpkins given for free to area families, many of which were hand painted by youth on-site. The event was also the debut of the Art in Action Avenue. Funded with a grant from the Bend Cultural Tourism Fund, the Avenue brought live and interactive art exhibits to the streets of downtown Bend for the first time. Blacksmiths, potters and printmakers all provided hands-on experiential art activities to hundreds of festival goers who left with their own piece of new art.
“Artists took their studios to the streets,” said Cate O’Hagan, project coordinator of Art in Action Avenue. “The metal forge sparked, the steamroller rolled huge prints and a clay artist created fantastical creatures drawing in curious kids and their families. By all accounts it was an inspired success worth repeating.”
For other artists, musicians and vendors who set up shop on-site, the festival was a valuable opportunity to connect with customers and visit with old friends. A post-festival economic impact survey showed vendors overwhelmingly reported strong revenues, and gratitude at the return of an event that has become a beloved celebration of all that downtown Bend has to offer our community.