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Four years in, Whats Brewing? has been a success


Forum attendance has exceeded expectations and guest speakers have been plentiful

by: JASON CHANEY - Kerry Tymchuk, Oregon Historical Society Director and four-time Jeopardy champion,  is one of many guest speakers the forum has presented.

When the Crook County Foundation first launched “What’s Brewing?” in 2010, members hoped to draw about 20 to 25 visitors per week.

From the start, they exceeded those expectations, averaging 32 patrons per forum. The next year, an average of 36 turned out each week, then 42 the year after that. This year, the average has again grown, reaching 46 thus far.

“It is way more than we expected,” gushed Kristi Steber, Crook County Foundation executive director. “It has just grown like crazy.”

In the late 1980s, the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce hosted an early-morning Legislative Committee meeting.

“It was primarily local political issues as well as those that were state related,” said Steve Uffelman, current What’s Brewing moderator. “We periodically had speaker-phone conversations with one of the legislators in Salem.”

About a half-dozen to a dozen people would attend the sessions, Uffelman said.

This meeting provided the foundation a blueprint when they first established the “What’s Brewing?” forum in 2010, nearly 20 years later.

“We were doing some focus groups and some community surveys and that was the one thing that kept coming up,” Steber said. “They missed that opportunity to get together with people and find out what was happening in town and learn about what was going on.”

However, the plan was to focus less on political issues and more on community interests.

“We try to get enough of a variety that there is something that will appeal to everybody at one time or another,” Steber stated.

She noted that by the end of this year, “What’s Brewing?’ will have provided 120 programs, most of which involve a new topic or guest speaker.

“There seems to be no shortage of people and interesting things,” Steber remarked.

Speakers during the past four years have ranged from Forest Service or Crooked River Watershed Council staff to Oregon Representative Mike McLane or Kerry Tymchuk, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society.

Uffelman said that when he agreed to moderate the forum, he wasn’t sure how successful the program would become.

“I thought this was an opportunity to get the community together and have conversations about pertinent stuff to the community. Maybe it would get legs and maybe it wouldn’t, but why not at least try, because we were not having those types of conversations in town. There was not a forum in which people could bring subjects to the community.

Four year later, the weekly event has enjoyed more success than anyone had envisioned, and for Steber, the forum provides an ongoing opportunity to learn something new.

“You always learn something,” she said. “There is always surprise, and whatever your assumptions are about a topic, when you come to listen to whoever is presenting, it changes your mind. That is the whole purpose of it — to open your mind and look at things through a different lens and different perspective.”

Going forward, Steber does not plan to expand the scope of “What’s Brewing?” The forum will continue its focus on community issues. However, she does hope that more and more people will show up for the event each week.

“I hope it keeps growing. I hope it stays relevant to people and their interests. I hope it helps the public stay better informed about what is going on.”