As the calendar turns from 2022 to 2023, we reflect on the relationships made, accomplishments achieved and the moments that brought a smile to our faces here in the Old Mill District in Bend, Oregon.

This, and all the ways in which the shop and restaurant owners, studio managers, sales associates, janitorial service, security team and landscape architects continue to inspire us with their dedication and creativity.

We have a lot to celebrate, most notably, the life and legacy of our fearless founder, visionary and friend, William “Bill” Smith. Bill Smith, an avid outdoorsman and community builder who loved a good pun, passed away in his sleep on Friday, Nov. 18. He was 81 years old.

Bill and Trish Smith

Photo by Joshua Langlais

Bill loved music, people and flowers and believed building a beautiful district with a music venue where the community could gather improved the quality of life in Bend. One of his goals was to create a community where the economy could support good jobs for the future and children would not have to move away to find work and education. He believed part of the magic of Bend is that we’re friendly to each other and take the time to smile. Everywhere he traveled he spent time picking up litter, picking weeds, and planting flowers. He had trays of sunflower seeds he hand-collected from ranches throughout Oregon which he would broadcast on his walks.

A celebration of life for Bill will be held at the Hayden Homes Amphitheater on May 23 from 1-3 p.m. Bill and Trish, his wife of 52 years, have long supported higher education. Those wishing to donate in his memory are encouraged to look at the Central Oregon Community College Foundation, which since 1955 has provided scholarships for students to attend COCC.

Momentous milestones:

The Stacks Art Studios & Gallery, the district’s first artist in residency space, opened and welcomed the arrival of five new artists! All are welcome to visit and witness the artists in action while curating works of art that range from oil on canvas and quilts to photography and exquisite custom cocktails.

The Stacks Art Studios and Gallery

Photo: Gwen Shoemaker

Sisters Coffee Company and the Durham family celebrated one year of keeping the district cozy and caffeinated. Rapa Nui Tiki Lounge, whose warm island vibes and new ramen bar have kept things lively at their second-floor location above Saxon’s Fine Jewelers also had a one-year anniversary. Speaking of Saxon’s Fine Jewelers, Saxon’s has been “the gem in the heart of the Old Mill” since 2006, but they’ve been adding sparkle to folks’ lives in Bend for 40 years!

More anniversary celebrations were shared by the collective of creatives at Tumalo Art Co. who’ve featured art in the heart of the district for 20 years, followed closely by the incredible Lubbesmeyer sisters upstairs. Lubbesmeyer Art Studio & Gallery has inspired us for 15 years and we’re hoping they call the Old Mill District home for many more.

Live events and community collaboration:

2022 saw the expansion of First Friday Art Walk showcasing not only Lubbesmeyer Studio & Gallery, Tumalo Art Co., Amejko Artistry, and The Stacks Art Studios & Gallery, but a plethora of local artists and creatives as well; including, artist Katie Riem who unveiled this year’s Winter Art Series Piece, featuring a spectacular topographical presentation of Central Oregon icons. Join us Friday, Jan. 6 for the initial First Friday Art Walk of the new year!

2022 Winter Art Series created by Katie Reim

Hundreds of kiddos experienced the magic of Santa flying into SantaLand via help from our friends at AirLink Helicopters and spirited locals decked out their boats for the Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe Holiday Lights Paddle Parade.

Hayden Homes Amphitheater hosted 52 concerts and more than 200,000 people came to enjoy an evening with the likes of ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt, ODESZA, Jack Johnson, Maren Morris, Jim Gaffigan, and Alanis Morrissette, to name a few!

The River Runs Through It:

We are passionate about protecting, monitoring and educating folks about the Deschutes River. The river that brings so much life and vitality to our region. Not only is Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe named after an important tributary to the Deschutes, but they are incredible stewards of the river and conservation. They’re also partners of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. In fact, Tumalo Creek donated $1 for every tube rented to float the Deschutes to the UDWC. This brought $27,647 to support restoration and education projects on the river! We’re grateful to have strong advocates and partners like this throughout all our endeavors.

Tubing the Deschutes River on Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe Rentals

Avian Amazement:

Our home nestled along the Deschutes River offers prime wildlife watching and a vibrant corridor for bird species of all kinds. Folks strolling the river trail were frequently entertained by the swooping and soaring of our resident bald eagle and red-tailed hawk. Next time you’re down, check out a pair of Leupold binoculars from our Ticket Mill (next to LUSH) to start your birding adventure!

Posts you loved the most:

(for more fun follow along on Facebook and Instagram)

2022 Top Facebook Post of OMD covered in snow

Covered in a blanket of snow Jan. 2022

Flying flags in support of Ukraine

Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe Holiday Lights Paddle Parade photo by Michelle Adams

Breathtaking sunset Sept. 6

New mural outside Sisters Coffee Co. painted by Vivi Design

Lunar eclipse captured by Matthew Lasala on May 15

Cheers to the new year, Central Oregon!
On your next walk, in honor of Billy, we hope you notice the flowers, pick up the litter, and smile at a stranger.