Santaland Diaries with Mike Dempsey

Actor and director Mike Dempsey is helping our fair town get in the Christmas spirit this month with his one-man show “Santaland Diaries,” based on an essay by writer David Sedaris.  This Christmas show features festive scenery and props: a decorated tree, gifts, jingle bells, large murals of Santa’s workshop and a toy-making elf, and, of course, a real-life elf (well, Dempsey in an elf suit, at least).  Unlike “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street,” however, “Santaland Diaries” is not necessarily uplifting nor feel-good, but it is laugh-out-loud funny.

“Santaland Diaries” was inspired by David Sedaris’s time working as a Christmas elf one holiday season in Macy’s department store.   As a middle-aged man working dressing and working as an elf, the job was perfect for this observer of the inane to transcribe into the essay that would bring him into the public eye.   At opening night on Friday, Mike Dempsey took Sedaris’s unique brand of dry and often self-deprecating humor and brought it and the audience to life, eliciting wry smiles and bursts of laughter.

Bandon is lucky to claim Mike Dempsey as one of its own.  A talented actor, director, and playwright, Mike is a member of S.A.G. (Screen Actors’ Guild) and has been on stage and in films for many years.  He could even be seen at Chicago’s famous Second City where scores of famous actors and comedians have gotten their starts over the years.  Locally, Mike has directed several plays at the Sprague Theater, including locally written “Bethlehem Road” last December.

There are three more chances to see “Santaland Diaries:” Wednesday, December 7; Tuesday December 13; and Wednesday, December 14.  All shows are at Brewed Awakenings and begin at 7:00.  The $10 tickets can be purchased at Brewed Awakenings ahead of time or at the door.  The humor is rather adult at times, so consider leaving younger children at home.

Meet The Gants of Bandon Rain Cider Company

There’s something new in Bandon.  Something sweet, but not too sweet; something tart, but not too tart; something steeped in family history and tradition yet on the cutting edge.  Gary and Karen Gant and their son and daughter-in-law Trevor and Mary Gant have put their heads and fruits together and have come up with the best hard cranberry-apple cider around, and they have called it Bandon Rain Cider Company.  The Gants have been working on their cider for three years and finally unveiled it at the 2016 Cranberry Festival where it received a very warm welcome.


Gary, a 3rd generation Bandon cranberry grower, was first inspired to try his hand at hard cider when he considered the loaded apple trees on his “small” 7 acre farm and wondered what he could do with them all.  He decided to grind and press them and make hard apple cider.  He made it, and, he says, it was “horrible.  You couldn’t drink it.  It was just bad.”

After a year of aging, however, the cider was “almost palatable,” according to Mary.   After talking with Gary about the cider, Trevor and Mary, who were working in the TV industry in Los Angeles, became interested in the idea.  They went to Trader Joes, bought some bottles of apple cider to ferment.  They brought some up to Bandon, and after tasting it, the family agreed that they were definitely on to something.

Over the next couple of years, they worked on finding just the right blend of cranberry and apple juice to make a well-balanced unfiltered hard cider.  Gary and Mary attended a class taught by cider guru Peter Mitchell and brought a sample of their latest version for him to judge at the end of class.  The cider master’s first comment was “It’s pink.”  After the Gants explained it was due to the cranberries, he smelled, swirled, and sipped, shook his head, again exclaimed, “It’s pink!”  He went on to say that he could taste the cranberry and the apple, the astringency was nice, and it had a long taste and was well-balanced.  His final comments were, “Good job!  Well done.  I would buy this.  I would drink this.”  They knew then that they were on the right track.


After the class, the Gants asked for feedback from many different people, continuing to fine-tune the cider to find the right apple/cranberry balance.  Everyone had their own opinions; some thought it was too sweet, others too tart, but most people liked it.

When they decided that they would make cider on a larger scale and try to market it, they had to get serious about commitment.  Gary got to work renovating two buildings on his 7 acre farm, and Trevor and Mary quit their jobs to move up to Bandon and work on cider full time.

Their hard work has paid off in spades.  The cider has only been on the market for a couple of weeks now, but it has been received extremely well among the locals and visitors.  People from all over were able to try it at the Cranberry Festival and at Cycle Oregon.  A couple thousand cyclists (who also tend to be drinkers) from all over the country participate in Cycle Oregon, so Bandon Rain got a fair bit of exposure from that one event.  A wine-maker in Dundee, Oregon in the heart of the Willamette Valley wine country was very interested in their fermenting process, and a couple from England who were particularly taken with the cider said, “It’s great to see the United States starting to learn about cider.”


The Gants seem to have found the ideal cranberry-apple balance they were looking for, but there is still much to learn and work to be done to continue to progress in the industry.  They are selling the cider locally on tap and in kegs now, focusing on getting the word out there, but they have an eye to the future.  If they choose to bottle the cider to sell in stores, they will need to decide between pasteurizing and filtering.  Filtering the cider would change the nature of the fine product they created, and pasteurizing can be expensive and complicated.


The fermenting family members are starting to find their niches in the cider production.  Gary explains that there are a lot of moving parts to keep track of.  He finds himself ordering small yet important and very specific parts online, storing steel tanks in his truck, and wandering around the hardware store looking for just the right food-grade fitting that won’t disintegrate in the acidic cider.

One of the most important parts in the cider process is starting with the right fruit.  Although the Gants’ property has a good selection of apple trees, they won’t be enough to keep up with the market’s demands.  Bandon Rain cider is made of a blend of juice from a variety of Northwest apples.

bandon-rain-pullThere’s no question that the economy has shifted in Bandon.  A town that was once dominated by fishing and timber with some cranberries and cheese thrown in there now largely revolves around tourism and golf.  I, for one, am extremely happy and excited to see the injection of a new industry that people will come to associate with our small coastal town: cranberry-apple hard cider by the name of Bandon Rain.

To sample Bandon Rain cider, head to the Beverage Barn on the corner of 12th St. and Highway 101.  Bring a growler; you’ll want to fill it up after tasting this cider!

To keep up with the latest about Bandon Rain Cider Company, follow them on Facebook, and visit their website.

Face Rock Creamery 3rd Anniversary Party

This Mother’s Day weekend, Face Rock Creamery celebrated its third anniversary with music, dancing, burgers, hot dogs, panini, local beers, ice cream, and of course, some of the best cheese around.  Several area wineries came with wine to sample, and live music included the local band Done Deal and the very talented Bandon High School jazz band.  The Oregon Coast Culinary Institute brought beautiful samples of decadent combinations of creamy cheese, creamy chocolate and craft beers.


With the third anniversary of the Face Rock Creamery’s opening also came the release of the Face Rock three-year aged cheddar.  This white cheddar is delightfully sharp and delicious and well worth the wait!


In addition to the music and food, there were activities that everyone could enjoy.  Booths included cotton candy, face painting, and a balloon artist, and Mother’s Day massages were available.



The event was combined with a fun fundraiser for the Bandon Swimming Pool whose mission it is to build and maintain an indoor pool for the south coast of Oregon for recreation, safety, therapy, competition, and promote tourism..  Going with the aquatic theme, a dunk tank was set up advertising one throw for $1, and three throws for $2.  Sarah Sinko, wife of Brad Sinko, head cheesemaker at the Face Rock Creamery, was first in the tank and taunted guests to encourage them to try to dunk her.


Face Rock Creamery is the continuation of a long-standing cheese history in Bandon.  Head cheesemaker Brad Sinko who made cheese for the Bandon Cheese Factory before its closing in 2000 has created award-winning cheeses that can be found in many western states.  The anniversary party keeps getting better and better; with their many awards and acknowledgements, Face Rock Creamery has much to celebrate.  Anyone who enjoys cheese hopes that there are many many more anniversaries to come.


Meet Peter Braun at Cobblers Bench

One of the oldest continuously running businesses in Bandon, Peter Braun’s Cobblers Bench has been a fixture in Old Town since 1979.  And, like many local businesses, it was passed down from an older generation.


Peter’s father Wolf, a leatherworker, opened The Cobblers Bench in 1979 after having visited a friend in Bandon and deciding it would be home.  He set up shop next to what is now the Bandon Coffee Café but was forced to move out when the shop burned.  After the fire, Wolf was cleaning things out of what remained of the building, and seeing his boot jack on the sidewalk, a man walking by asked if Wolf could fix his boot.  Wolf asked the passer-by to come back when he had his shop reestablished, but quickly changed his mind and called him back, telling him he would go ahead and fix the boot.  He must have earned some good karma with his offer; as it turned out, the man was a Mason and told Wolf that one of the shops in the Masonic Hall building was for rent.  Shortly after, The Cobblers Bench opened again in the current location of the Spirit of Oregon shop, added retail clothing items, and then moved to its current location on the corner.


As a kid and even a younger man, Peter had neither dreams nor plans of someday taking over his father’s business.  He spent most of his childhood in Marcola, a small town east of Eugene, before moving to Bandon for his senior year of high school.  In college, he studied theater and then enrolled in film school in Portland.  After graduating, Peter worked in the film business for more than 10 years in Oregon and California, working on projects that lasted 6-8 weeks.


It was during a quiet time between projects in 2003 that Wolf asked Peter to come to Bandon to take a role in a play he was directing.  Peter took him up on this offer as well as his offer to work in the shop during the days.  He had never attempted shoe repair, but, as he said, “shoe repair isn’t brain surgery.”


After the play closed, Peter began a more frequent back-and-forth schedule between Portland and Bandon.  He would come to Bandon for a week to help in The Cobblers Bench doing the shoe repairs for his dad, then return to the Rose City to do a film job.  He kept this up for a couple of years until Wolf decided to start his gradual retirement to Hawaii where he had bought land.  Over time, Peter’s responsibilities at the shop increased to where he was essentially in charge, doing the buying and making many of the decisions.


When Wolf moved to Hawaii for good in 2007, Peter took over completely, taking on a fair bit of debt along with the business.  The stock market crashed just a year later, putting the store in even greater danger.  Though without formal business training, Peter had a great deal of good business sense and was able to keep the store open by liquidating much of the old merchandise and bringing in new lines of clothing and shoes to the shop, focusing more on outdoor wear than the women’s boutique clothing it had been previously.  The Cobblers Bench is now solidly out of debt and has been transformed into one of the cornerstones of Old Town.


Peter Braun puts his energy into more than just the success of The Cobblers Bench; he spends a great deal of that energy helping Bandon become “the crown jewel of the south coast.”  He started his term on the Bandon City Council in January of 2015, is president of the Chamber of Commerce, and works with the Greater Bandon Association.  His intentions with his work with these groups as well as with his membership with the Masonic Lodge is to try to represent the people of the city, and to help Bandon improve and put its best foot forward.


When asked if he plans to stick around Bandon, Peter replied, “Oh, I’m not going anywhere.”  His dad and twin brother tried to get him to come to Hawaii with them, but he has no desire to leave. “We live in the most amazing place in the world,” he said.  With his help, there’s no doubt it will only become more amazing.

old town street

Bandon Beach and City Park Cleanup on Saturday

face rock with sky and sand crop

If you love Bandon’s parks and beaches, this weekend is your opportunity to give back and help keep them as beautiful as they are.  This Saturday, September 27, all are welcome to join in the SOLVE Beach and Riverside Cleanup, part of the International Coastal Cleanup and National Public Lands Day.  Each year, thousands of volunteers in local communities from all over Oregon work with local waste haulers to remove litter from beaches, rivers, parks, and neighborhoods.  Over 110,000 volunteers have removed 1.5 million pounds of litter since 1984!

Bandon is proud to participate in this important state-wide event.  Individuals wishing to help can choose from two projects or split their time between them.

If the park is your passion, join others at Bandon City Park in cleaning up general debris, planting trees and shrubs, and planting native plants.  Clean up activities run from 10-1.  Meet at the park on 11th Avenue to participate.  Parking anywhere at the park, and meet at the south side of 11th Ave. near the center ballfields.

Coordinator Michelle Hampton is happy to answer questions and give more information.  She can be reached at 541-347-2437, ext. 231.  For registration questions, contact Kathleen Boyle at 503-844-9574, ext. 332 or 1-800-333-7658, ext. 332, or visit SOLVE’s Bandon City Park Cleanup website.

If you prefer to help on the beach, meet first at the Bandon City Park gazebo between 10-1 to learn what kinds of debris don’t belong on the beautiful ocean beaches and need to be removed, get your supplies, and then head to the beach to get to work.  SOLVE and its partners will provide gloves and bags, Washed Ashore and Oregon State Parks will pass out supplies, assist with paperwork, and haul away items that litter our beaches.  Washed Ashore will keep much of the debris for use in their next sculpture.  Bandon Transfer and Recycling will be donating their time and services to haul and dispose or recycle the debris.

Community volunteers for the beach cleanup project are advised to bring clothing appropriate for the weather, a refillable water bottle and an old colander to sift small bits of plastic and other trash out of the sand.  Remember that although beautiful, the beaches can be dangerous, so please do not climb on logs with water around them, and take care not to turn your back to the ocean.

For information, contact Kathleen Boyle at 503-844-9574, ext. 332 or 1-800-333-7658, ext. 332 or visit SOLVE’s Bandon Beach Cleanup website.

SOLVE is a non-profit organization bringing together individuals, business groups, and service and conservation groups through volunteering and education to restore our natural spaces and take care of our amazing state.  Originally called S.O.L.V. (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism), SOLVE was created in 1969 by Governor Tom McCall and other community leaders to address the need for community action in a state that had always been beautiful and whose population was quickly growing.  Today, their mission remains the same as they tirelessly work to clean up and restore a variety of natural sites.

Many thanks to SOLVE, Oregon State Parks, Washed Ashore, Bandon Transfer and Recycling, and the many volunteers for setting up this project.  It looks like it will be a dry day for cleaning our beaches and park; so grab a friend or your family and come on out to help!