Banding together: River Fusion 22 named Oregon Festival of the Year

April, 2018 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community, Food And Drink, News

By Mary Owen

River Fusion 22 was chosen as the Oregon Festival of the Year for festivals by the Oregon Festivals & Events Association.

“We’re thrilled!” said Allison McKenzie, executive director of GROW-EDC. Two  Ovation awards are given to festivals, one for those with a budget over $150,000 and one for festivals like River Fusion 22 with a budget under $150,000.

“This is not only a wonderful acknowledgment for our area, it is great recognition for the many stakeholders who banded together to put on this inaugural event during eclipse weekend,” McKenzie said of the win.

GROW-EDC tourism teams contributed greatly to the North Santiam Canyon’s outreach to visitors during the Great American Eclipse last August. Others include: Travel Oregon, Travel Salem, Detroit Lake Recreation Area Business Association (DLRABA), multiple event producers, local communities, the North Santiam and the Stayton Sublimity chambers of commerce, nonprofit organizations, and dozens of volunteers.

McKenzie said although GROW-EDC’s name is on the award, it’s for everyone who was involved in making the event.

“It was this collaborative spirit, especially with so many new, smaller events woven into the mix, that helped us win this important award,” McKenzie said. “Hurray for all of us!”

McKenzie said River Fusion 22’s first-ever regional tourism event is another important first.

“For the first time ever, communities, camping venues and event producers sent visitors to places other than those on their home turf, trusting that a positive visitor experience was what would make this a success,” she said.

“This willingness to collaborate across community lines set us apart from some of the other events held that weekend and it sent a wonderful foundation.” 

Currently, the group is planning the second River Fusion 22 for Sept. 20 – 23.

“Our hope is that River Fusion 22 will help extend the summer season for our local businesses while showcasing the beauties and outdoor recreation opportunities that are abundant in the autumn,” she said. “Since Detroit Lake begins to drain just after Labor Day, we also have a strong likelihood that the North Santiam River will be high enough to support a sampling of river sports as well.

“Our goal is to increase [consumer] spending for our local businesses,” McKenzie added, “while giving visitors a ‘taste’ of outdoor recreation opportunities all over North Santiam River Country.”

With the forest fires and accompanying smoke last summer, McKenzie said folks learned during River Fusion 22 how important it was to link activities in multiple locations so visitors would have plenty to do no matter where they traveled. 

“Given that the Army Corps of Engineers’ Detroit Lake Downstream Fish Passage Project may keep Detroit Lake dry for one or two years or more in a few years, GROW and our tourism teams and partners believe it is especially important right now to highlight the range of activities we offer beyond the lake and even the river to help expand our tourism footprint and stabilize this growing regional industry,” McKenzie said.

“We’re still in the very early stages of planning, but look for guided hikes, river rafting, horseback riding, tours of covered bridges and some downtown festivities in addition to a host of family activities centered at Camp Taloali.”

Additionally, Travel Salem has selected River Fusion 22 and its organizers for the 2017 Most Inspired Award.

Travel Salem recognizes businesses, organizations and regions within the Marion and Polk County that have gone above and beyond to develop and market tourism projects each May. River Fusion will be honored at the awards luncheon May 3 at the Salem Convention Center.

For more information, contact McKenzie at 503-871-5188.

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