Pickathon to reprise: new permit granted

Just a 30-minute drive away from Portland you will find a charming town, adequately named Happy Valley, which is home to the annual music festival, Pickathon. The name Pickathon refers to the bluegrass style of picking a guitar, banjo or stringed instrument, however, a variety of genres are represented at the festival extending beyond its American roots tradition, including rock, punk, indie,
international and more. 

Situated on the 80-acre Pendarvis Farm, the festival features local food trucks and vendors of an eclectic variety. Pickathon typically occurs over the first week of August, but this year the festival’s continuation
was in question. 

Happy Valley had issued Pickathon a permit to operate on Pendarvis Farm from 2014 to 2023, meaning the upcoming 2024 festival would need to acquire a renewed permit. In the past decade, Happy Valley
has expanded and plans to build a town center in the plot of land currently used as the parking lot for the festival. In addition to the decreasing land availability, Happy Valley residents have complained about the noise, congestion and other various externalities a bustling musical festival brings to a quiet suburban town. 

Nonetheless, on Feb. 27 of this year, the Happy Valley Planning Commission held a public hearing in which they decided to renew the Pickathon permit for the next 10 years. Public support was cited as a major factor in the granting of the festival’s permit. Fans of the festival sent in over 1,500 letters of support, outweighing the cases in opposition. 

In an interview with Willamette Week before the hearing, Pickathon CEO Zale Schoenborn expressed his appreciation for the backing they have received from fans and community members.

“It’s humbling, that level of support. I feel like a lot of that comes from being really transparent. We’re pretty vulnerable in this. It either happens and we continue, or it doesn’t and we don’t,” said Schoenborn. 

In addition to crowdsourcing support for the permit renewal, Pickathon has collaborated with a local venue, The Showdown, to present local artists in the bluegrass/country scene every week. The “Showdown Saloon” series was launched in January and will continue up until the festival in August. The series features line and square dancing lessons on Mondays, DJing on Tuesdays and live music on Wednesdays and Sundays. Unfortunately, all events at The Showdown are 21 and over, meaning underage fans cannot attend. 

Pickathon has served as a hallmark resonator of bluegrass in the Pacific Northwest for 19 years, and fans of the festival can rest assured in the continuation of picking at Pendarvis Farm for years to come. With the announcement of the permit renewal, pre-sale tickets have been released and are available for purchase on their website pickathon.com.

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