A look at 2023 and one can see the Old Mill District is more than just a lifestyle center.

Anchored by the 200-foot smokestacks standing tall at our center, the Old Mill District is more than a lifestyle center. We celebrate our role as a community space offering miles of trail along the Deschutes River, beautified by acres of wildflower beds, home to the largest outdoor music venue in Oregon, buzzing with locals and visitors alike nourished by the Central Oregon sunshine and the curated programs of our retailers, restaurants, art studios, fitness facilities and Regal Movie Theater.

We have much to celebrate.

This year thousands of folks strolled through a dozen vibrant First Friday Art Walks showcasing the creativity of our district studios and local artists at Tumalo Art Co., Lubbesmeyer Art Studio & Gallery, The Stacks Art Studios & Gallery and Amejko Artistry. Shout out to Lindsay Gilmore of The Stacks, creator of this year’s Winter Art Series piece:

Local artist Lindsay Gilmore holding her 2023 Winter Art Series Piece featured throughout the district during the winter season.

Lindsay Gilmore of The Stacks Art Studios & Gallery showcasing the 2023 Winter Art Series.

We also watched hundreds of kids’ faces light up in admiration of spirited aerialists entertaining trunk-or-treaters on Halloween, and even bigger smiles when Santa flew into SantaLand via help from our friends at AirLink Helicopters and Deschutes County Search and Rescue! Let’s not forget the illumination of Chabad of Central Oregon’s menorah lighting and locals’ decked out boats for the Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe Holiday Lights Paddle Parade:

2023 Holiday Lights Paddle Parade of festive boats decorated floating on the Deschutes River in the Old Mill District

Holiday Lights Paddle Parade, Photo: Gwen Shoemaker

We welcomed local restauranteurs John and Amanda Gurnee and their eclectic prohibition-inspired experience at Lady Bird Cultural Society, the classy souvenir boutique Budd + Finn found its home between LUSH and Tumalo Art Co., and the fully immersive lifestyle retailer Anthropologie exceeded all our expectations when they opened in August. Sparkling on the other end of the tenure spectrum we have Saxon’s Fine Jewelers, the gem in the heart of the Old Mill who’ve helped Bend shine since 1983 — it was a pleasure witnessing them go big for their 40th Anniversary year!

Inside Lady Bird Cultural Society's private room with flamingo walls, groups dine with smiles.

Lady Bird Cultural Society, Photo: Gwen Shoemaker

It has always been about community.

Since the birth of the Old Mill District, philanthropy and community have been at the heart of every decision. Our founder, Bill Smith, had a vision to create and foster a thriving, supportive community. With his legacy in mind our team is intentional in the various ways we elevate the organizations and community members giving their all to build a better Bend. And that list is lengthy! This year we funneled a substantial portion of our creative and financial energy towards supporting the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance, Latino Community Association, Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, Tower Theatre Foundation, The Fathers Group, Deschutes Historical Society, Healing Reins, Boys and Girls Club of Bend, High Desert Chamber Music, Family Kitchen, Wildland Firefighters, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Deschutes River Conservancy, BendDesign, The Giving Plate, and many more!

It gets better.

The music venue mentioned above, Hayden Homes Amphitheater, gets a giant applause for hosting 50 concerts, and welcoming more than 250,000 patrons who got to sing along with their favorite artists including James Taylor, Chris Stapleton, boygenius, Weezer, Mavis Staples, Lindsey Stirling, Ringo Starr, Jelly Roll, Trombone Shorty, and Beck, to name a few!

Yonder Mountain String Band summer concert at Hayden Homes Amphitheater

Summer nights at Hayden Homes Amphitheater, Photo: Nate Wyeth

Today we celebrate all the above, and the many 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 creativity and dedication to making us all that we are today.

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.

Follow along in real time throughout the year @oldmilldistrict on Facebook and Instagram