The event will double as the Crooked River Roundup Block Party and Chamber Grand Opening

by: JASON CHANEY - Chamber Director Holli Van Wert (right) and staff member Lou Ann Saenz (left) pose for a photo in the main lobby of the newly renovated Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.

The Crooked River Roundup week needed a kick-off party to start things off right.

The Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce had a new visitors center to show off to the public.

Next week, the Chamber will kill two birds with one stone as they host their Chamber Office Grand Opening and Roundup Block Party.

The event will take place at the Chamber’s new home on the corner of 10th and North Main Street, a location familiar to many as the former City of Prineville Railway office.

The event marks the second block party hosted by the Chamber, but they decided, now that the remodel of their new facility is nearly complete, to make the party a grand opening as well.

“So it’s a big party,” said Chamber Director Holli Van Wert.

The party will start late in the afternoon next Tuesday with the Band of Brothers conducting a flag ceremony. The American flag, which was flown at the U.S. Capitol, will be donated by Rep. Greg Walden, who will attend the event along with Oregon Rep. Mike McLane.

“I have a menagerie of sponsors. I will be introducing all of the contractors and subcontractors who have been on this project.” Van Wert said of the festivities. “Deer Ridge Correctional Institute will be here. They have had a huge part in this project. They moved us here. They did all of the demolition. They did the painting and they built the furniture.”

Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe is scheduled to speak at the event, and though no other speeches have been confirmed, Van Wert said McLane and Walden may say a few words.

“Solstice Brewing Company will be here serving hamburgers,” she continued, “and there will be adult beverages.”

With regards to alcoholic drinks, Van Wert said each attendee of legal drinking age will be given on drink ticket. They must pay for each one that follows.

Mixed in with the food and drinks is local band Countrified, who will entertain visitors throughout the event. All of that will take place outside, while inside, people will be invited to take a tour of the new facility.

In converting the railway office to a visitors center, Chamber staff wanted to embrace the history of the building and railway, while giving the facility a modern and inviting feel. They replaced the carpet, repainted the walls, and removed the dropped ceiling in the main lobby to expose an existing skylight. Cabinets lining the walls were removed as were the desks, and a contoured countertop was installed with a glowing blue light beneath its edge that is meant to represent the Crooked River.

While the interior looks much like a visitors center, Chamber staff have retained some of the large model trains that adorned the old office in hopes of embracing the railway theme.

“When I first saw the building ... there was a complete vision of turning this into a tourist attraction as well as a Chamber office,” Van Wert said. “We wanted to make sure we could offer memorabilia, and a little twist on it.”

Still waiting is the installation of a train trestle and a train that will appear to be crossing the Crooked River and going into a tunnel in the wall.

Thanks to in-kind donations from contractors, subcontractors, and Cornerstone Drafting amounting to $110,000, the project has thus far cost the Chamber about $21,000. Van Wert said the project could not have happened without their generosity and the support of many other community partners. As such, she is eager to show off what they helped create.

“This is truly what a chamber of commerce visitors center should be,” she said. “It was made to happen by the community.”

The Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center Grand Opening and Crooked River Roundup Week Block Party will be held at 185 N.E. 10th St., on Tuesday, June 24, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

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