Two Willamette Valley towns celebrate their natural and manmade treasures

Bonnie Henderson


Drive any backroad around Independence, Oregon, during thegrowing season, and you're sure to see lush fields of hops, thevines clinging to strings 18 feet tall and festooned with theresinous golden green cones prized by brewers. So broad are the hopfields, in fact, that it may surprise you to know thatIndependence, southwest of Salem, is no longer the "hop capital ofthe world" (as it was known in the 1940s). But that doesn't stopthe town from celebrating its favorite agricultural product with afestival in the fall.

Just next door, Monmouth maintains its 143-year-old ban onalcohol sales, although city fathers will admit there's no pressingneed for it. At this point, being the only dry town in Oregon ismore about tradition than anything else. And tradition, brushedwith a blush of nostalgia and energized by a thriving artscommunity, is at the heart of this pair of historic WillametteValley towns.

Independence is especially appealing on a warm September day.Laze by the river, or stroll the historic downtown, with its newtrees and period lampposts hung with flowers and hand-paintedbanners. Best of all, visit on September 28, when two signatureevents take over Main Street.

The Hop and Heritage Festival has everything from food and craftbooths, displays of antique farm equipment, and a petting zooto―naturally―a beer garden. Just up the street, trollfor art at the third annual Salmon Run, organized by the RiverGallery (184 S. Main St.; 503/838-6171) to benefit scholarships forlocal art students. Guests can purchase a foam-core salmon ($25)and decorate it or have an artist embellish it for them.

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