Thursday, September 19, 2013
INDEPENDENCE -- This isn't your mom's Hop & Heritage Festival.It's actually more like your grandmother's or great-grandmother's festival.And that's just the point.When the Hop & Heritage Committee -- now a city commission -- gathered at the beginning of the year to start planning this year's festival, its members decided to turn the thematic clock back."We decided as a committee that everything needed to fall into that 1856-1956 time frame," Marilyn Morton, commission co-chairwoman, said. "It's been an interesting year."The 100-year period set by the commission was not just arbitrary.During that time, Independence was the world's largest producer of hops -- the bine-grown crop essential to brewing beer.The festival's current 13-year run is itself a tribute to the former Hop Fiesta of the early 20th century heralding the end to another harvest season.With rebranding the festival, events that didn't fall into the 1856-1956 theme had to go.The car show, tractor pull, lawn mower races and helicopter rides all fell by the wayside to make room for a theme-appropriate dance contest and a wet hops brewfest. Independence Hop & Heritage Festival "I'm not a beer aficionado, but wet hops means beer is flavored with fresh hops, not dried hops," Morton said. "We've always had the beer garden, but it's something new that one of the local teachers (Michael Thissell) really wanted to try."Several Oregon breweries -- Rogue (Newport), Santiam Brewing (Salem), Gilgamesh Brewing (Salem), Rusty Truck Brewing (Lincoln City), Salem Ale Works (Salem) and Long Brewing (Newberg) -- will compete for the best wet hops brewed beer.Monmouth pizza restaurant Yeasty Beasty and Independence Elks Lodge 1950 will also represent other breweries for the competition."As a restaurant with two main focuses, craft pizza and craft beer, the brewfest really dovetails quite nice with the foundations of our brand," Tom Jones, Yeasty Beasty manager, said. "The event is tailored around craft beer -- truly the heart of craft beer, right down to the freshest hops that you can put in."Just because the 2013 festival has a brand new -- or would it be brand old? -- theme and some events have been dropped, don't think it will be boring.Many of the classic events -- pie-eating contest, fireworks display and pancake feed -- remain.And what would the festival be without the Ghost Walk?The ever-popular event is being capped at 1,000 guests this year, with tours being divided into a north and south side.With the recent publication of Morton's "Haunted Independence, Oregon" spreading the word of Independence's poltergeist-inhabited past and present, getting a ticket before the 6 p.m. start time could be a tall order.The marriage of newer events with those fitting in the 1856-1956 time span should give the 13th annual festival an entirely new feel."What I'm finding now is that everyone is really beginning to get into the theme," Morton said. "Our candle vendor is bringing a candle making demo and the servers for the flapjack feed will all be dressed in period clothing. People are doing a great job of figuring out how to connect."