Travel Salem salutes those who make the “most Oregon part of Oregon”

Nine Salem institutions earned recognition May 11 for their work drawing visitors to Oregon’s capital.

The annual Travel Salem “MOPO” awards honor those who promote tourism to the “Most Oregon Part of Oregon,” as the organization refers to Salem.

The honorees include Salem Reporter photographer Ron Cooper, who was dubbed the “Most G.O.A.T.” (Greatest of All Time) for “his outstanding work showcasing the beauty and livability of the Salem Region,” according to the award citation.

Cooper began working with Travel Salem in 1987, and his photographs have graced billboards, digital advertisements, the Salem Visitor’s Guide, promotional banners and other materials highlighting Salem.

Awardees are selected annually, but the awards given out change names year-to-year based on what best fits the work of those recognized, said Kara Kuh, deputy marketing officer for Travel Salem.

Here are the other winners.

Resilient Headwaters Coalition — “Most Transformative”

The community coalition of mountain bikers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts is working on a plan to restore and develop outdoor recreation in the Santiam Canyon following the 2020 wildfires. “A sustainable trails stewardship plan is underway, a pilot trail project is currently in environmental review, and a marketing campaign launched this spring to promote mountain biking in the Old Cascade Crest,” the award said.

Press Play Salem and Carlee Wright — “Most Culturally Connected”

From its start in 2017 as a digital newsletter, “Press Play Salem has become a vital source of information for the community through their free newsletter and stunning print magazine,” the award said. Carlee Wright, the magazine’s publisher and founder, is a Salem artist and cultural connoisseur who’s had a hand in many cultural events and institutions over the years.

Salem Community Markets — “Most Bountiful”

Formerly called Salem Saturday Market, the nonprofit was cited “for showcasing the bounty of the region and creating truly unique experiences for both residents and visitors.” The organization has had to rebrand as it’s grown beyond the weekly gathering of farmers and artisans in a state-owned parking lot near the Capitol. This year, the market’s 25th, saw a new executive director take the helm and the addition of a third weekday market Wednesdays at Chemeketa Community College.

Bike Indy — “Most Peloton”

The city of Independence launched this regular bike event during the Covid pandemic as a way of encouraging outdoor socialization and supporting local businesses.

“They took the lead and brought together the cycling community for a successful event that helped support downtown businesses during a difficult period,” the award citation said. “Bike Indy has continued to grow, now offering free events each season that feature pre-ridden, quality-checked roads and mixed-terrain routes, for the cycling community to enjoy. Post-ride, participants are encouraged to patronize area businesses, using the funds they would typically use for a cycling event entry-fee.”

Xicha Brewing — “Most Authentic”

The brewery and restaurant founded in west Salem has had a busy year, with an expansion to a south Eugene and northeast Salem location. “Their passion for building and strengthening community extends well past their doors, and into their work within the Mid-Willamette Valley, including Xichafest, their neighborhood celebration of all things Xicha, and their work with the Marion Polk Food Share,” the award said.

Chemeketa Cellars — “Vino Veritas”

The Salem-based community college offers an education in wine, with an 8-acre vineyard where students produce about 500 cases of wine per year. “Beyond educating our future winemakers, Chemeketa’s Wine Studies program offers hands-on training for cellar workers, vineyard managers, lab technicians, tasting room staff, and all the hospitality professionals whose hard work and handiwork go into each bottle, pour and revelatory sip,” the award said.

Mt. Angel Oktoberfest — “Most Unterhaltsam (Entertaining)” 

The fall celebration of beer, German food and more draws tens of thousands of visitors to north Marion County. “Since its inception, the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest has been a driving force for good, donating over $2 million dollars to the local community, including schools, churches, service organizations, youth activities, senior services and hospitals,” Travel Salem said.

Salem Art Fair & Festival — “Most Oregon Part of Oregon”

The iconic fair is the biggest event at Bush’s Pasture Park, showcasing ceramicists, painters, sculptors, weavers and more from across the U.S. “Always forward-thinking, last year the Fair adjusted its footprint to protect the old growth oak trees that have lived in the park for hundreds of years,” the award said. An annual event since 1919. This year’s Art Fair returns July 21-23.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.