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Have you missed the cloud bunnies, leaf people, adorable frogs and other enchanting characters that have come to life in some of Oregon’s most iconic landscapes? Fun (and totally real) news: They’re back in the latest round of the playful “Oregon, Only Slightly Exaggerated” campaign, designed to welcome visitors back to some of their favorite Oregon places after a year of delayed travel plans.
The nature-inspired characters have reprised roles alongside blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameo appearances of Oregon celebrities taking part in some of the state’s most cherished traditions — from browsing through a Portland farmers market and watching the annual Pendleton Round-Up to visiting Lincoln City’s Summer Kite Festival and taking in the stunning fall foliage at Ashland’s Lithia Park.
“We were so happy to go back to this world,” says Ansel Wallenfang, creative lead on the project at Portland-based creative agency Wieden+Kennedy. “There’s no shortage of inspiration in Oregon.”
As with the past two campaigns — in spring 2018 and reinvented in spring 2019 — Wieden+Kennedy wrote and produced the latest campaign in partnership with animation studio Psyop and Sun Creature Studio and Emmy Award-winning composer Jim Dooley.
“In year one we focused on the landscapes,” explains Megan Riehl, Wieden+Kennedy account supervisor. “In year two we shifted to activities. We really wanted to bring in people this year. [The campaign] focuses on people, customs, traditions and cultural elements in Oregon.”
Coming on the heels of 2020 — as the world comes out of a global pandemic and a social-justice movement — it was clear that a return of “Oregon, Only Slightly Exaggerated” held just the right touch of magic and whimsy everyone needed at this time, says Katy Clair, Travel Oregon’s director of global marketing. She says the team felt that the animated storytelling “could really inspire people and show them the places, communities and people [of Oregon] to connect with visitors and draw them in. Hopefully it’s done just that.”
Oregon’s People and Places
Big fans may find themselves watching the video again and again to find all of the Easter eggs — little insider gems hidden as a way to include real (and imagined) Oregonians in the artwork. Look closely or you might just miss it. Here’s a look at the starring characters and locations.
The animation kicks off with an overhead view of Portland, including the Willamette River, Burnside Bridge and the famous “Portland, Oregon” sign. It swoops into a bustling imaginary scene at a Portland farmers market, including fantastical appearances by a Chinese dragon and the late Portland cartoonist John Callahan. Look for bits featuring the woman-owned Portland distillery Freeland Spirits, nonprofit North Pole Studio, and classic food carts Potato Champion and Stretch the Noodle, run by noodle maker Xuemei Simard.
Doors to the bullpen swing open to start the next scene at the Pendleton Round-Up, which returns in September 2021 along with many other rodeos and events in Oregon. A rodeo legend rides the bucking bronco as he did in the Round-Up’s early days.
Just outside of Pendleton in the rolling hills of Heppner, along the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, a drumbeat leads into a scene pulsing with energy as a processional of leaders from the Umatilla Indian Reservation take to horseback and wild animals like pronghorn and eagles take chase. This is the ancestral home of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, whose history you can explore at the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton.
It’s like something out of a child’s dream at the annual Summer Kite Festival at D River State Recreation Site in Lincoln City, where visitors of all ages gather on 7 miles of sandy coastline to marvel at the larger-than-life kites soaring above. These take the shape of giant caterpillars, turtles, whales and elaborate art inspired by Portland artist AJ Fosik. Lincoln City also hosts a Fall Kite Festival — look for the next date in 2022.
Thunder Rock Cove
One of the enormous kites, a jellyfish, escapes the festival and drifts down the Coast to Thunder Rock Cove, part of the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Visitors are drawn to the stunning views of the rock formation in Brookings, just off Highway 101 in between Arch Rock Picnic Area and the area known as Natural Bridges, made up of seven arch rocks and blowholes that are some of the most photogenic landforms on the Oregon Coast.
LaPine State Park
The scene moves to evening in the Deschutes National Forest as a few families — including “Wild” author Cheryl Strayed and native Oregonian Olympic track champion Ashton Eaton — gather around the fire at LaPine State Park. They’re enjoying s’mores and popcorn, keeping cozy with colorful blankets from Pendleton Woolen Mills.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
After the campers extinguish their campfire embers, fireflies dance into a fairy-like scene underway at outdoor Elizabethan Theatre in Ashland, featuring actress Rainbow Dickerson. The world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival has reopened for performances; check out the exciting lineup for the 2022 season.
In the heart of the Willamette Valley, a chorus of plump pinot noir grapes serenades visitors to Domaine Drouhin Oregon in Dundee. The 235-acre estate offers expansive views of the valley from the vineyard terrace and Secret Garden tasting area. Among the winery guests in this slightly exaggerated world? Professional basketball player CJ McCollum and his wife, Elise Esposito, and basketball legend and announcer Bill Walton and his wife, Lori Walton.
All sorts of wildland creatures — from a dragonfly to little leaf people — inhabit the creek scene at Lithia Park in Ashland as the park alights with flaming reds, yellows and golds during the autumn season. Download a trail guide and take a self-guided tour of the park any time of year to enjoy the wildlife, plants and tranquil spaces, including a Japanese Garden and Rose Garden.
Old Baldy Trailhead
One of Oregon’s most iconic sites, Mt. Hood, is visible from the Old Baldy Trail, to the southwest of the mountain in Estacada. (Note that hikers need to secure and carry a free wilderness permit to access the trail between May 15 and Oct. 15 — find it at the trailhead.) Oregon park ranger Melissa Meitle, who enjoys sharing her tips about taking the road less traveled, points the way to a hiker — into the distance.