The Tower Theater: A different kind of night in Central Oregon

September 23, 2013

By Dusty Trails

When I was a child growing up in Bend, I remember complaining when my parents would drag me on the same hikes that I love to do today. I would whine as they attempted to force my feet into tight ski boots for ski school at Mt. Bachelor, where I will be spending many of my weekends this winter. They would take me to festivals downtown and we would always make a stop at Goodie’s for an ice cream, their trademark sweet scent drifting into our noses as we stepped inside. We would walk our dog Kiki and throw sticks for her in the river at Drake Park (or what I used to call “Duck Poop Park”).

As a teenager, my free time was often spent floating the river and going to movies at the Old Mill with friends. And after leaving for college, I tried to squeeze in as much time hiking, paddling, biking, and sitting around the campfire as possible whenever I came home. But the one thing that I didn’t appreciate until much later was the periodic family outings my dad would take us on to the Tower Theater.

My little sister and I would always groan every time my dad announced that we were all going to the Tower. It didn’t have a big screen and special effects like they have at Regal Cinemas. All the plays, concerts, and movies they showed there were often things we had never heard of. And what’s more, it seemed like we were always the only “young people” around for miles.

But the thing was, I secretly liked going to the Tower. The bright white and neon lights and 40-foot-tall tower are an iconic symbol of downtown Bend that bring a sense of excitement and vintage glamour to Wall Street on the night of a show. The building was originally built in 1940 and thrived as a cinema and performing arts stage. It closed when it couldn’t keep up with multi-screen theaters until efforts to renovate and reopen the building were finally successful in 2004. It now features state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment and a video projection system.

Since the reopening, the Tower Theater has been a cultural and historical hub of Bend as the home of everything from the Bend Film Festival and Broadway reproductions to Chinese acrobats and Grammy-winning artists. Highlights of my own experiences at the Tower include The Producers, KT Tunstall, Blind Pilot, and most recently, Spamalot—all shows that are sure to entertain audiences of all ages.

I have my dad to thank for keeping me cultured. And as a local Bend-ite, I would definitely recommend making a night out of an event at the Tower Theater. It is truly a gem in our town!