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Dear 2011,

We don’t know each other yet, but I love you. It sounds creepy, I know, but hear me out.

My last main squeeze in the mid-valley, 2010, was a nonstop torturous demon. It was my fault, really. Our relationship started late, nearly October with the summer in the rearview, and it was clear her best days had come and gone by the time I moved to town. “You shoulda been here for this,” they said and, “you really missed out on that.” That’s all I heard, over and over. Pure torture.

I need a new start, 2011, and that’s where you come in. I’ve been hearing the whispers about you for a while now, about all the things you’ll bring me and the new adventures you’ll take me on in the valley. Frankly, you sound too good to be true, but, like my hero Cher says, we’ve got to give our love a fightin’ chance.

And, since we’re speaking bluntly here, I should let you know that I’m a needy kind of guy. I’m going to demand a lot. I mean a lot – like Kathy Bates in “Misery” a lot. (I don’t own a sledgehammer, though, so don’t file that restraining order just yet.) Everyone deserves to be spoiled now and again, and all I want is my fair share of Oregon glory.

I want you to show me what all the fuss is about regarding da Vinci Days and the da Vinci Film Festival. The people in town act like Leonardo himself takes a sabbatical from the tomb every summer for a three-day fiesta in Corvallis.

I know the hype is warranted, though. All the evidence indicates that da Vinci Days is perhaps the ultimate be-there-or-be-square event of the year, and the next installment will be doubly good because the arts and science festival is again being coupled with the film fest July 15-17. There’ll be so much to see and do that you won’t notice if Leo strolls into town naked and taps you on the shoulder.

Speaking of big parties, I want a do-over on the Corvallis Fall Festival. My convoy from Tucson came into town at 4:30 p.m. last Sept. 26, giving me 30 minutes to soak up the spectacle that is the Fall Festival. I got there just in time to see them pack up the tents and disappear for 12 months.

As if to rub salt in a fresh wound, the locals shortly thereafter voted it Best Festival and Best Local Event in the area’s Top of the Valley awards. The only comfort I’ve received since then is that Fall Festival organizers are already promoting the socks off the 2011 event, slated for Sept. 24-25. That will give me two months to recover from da Vinci Days.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, 2011. I want the mid-valley’s wine experts to help me finally appreciate the taste of a glass of vino. They say wine is an acquired taste, but I could say the same thing about paint thinner. But I haven’t abandoned all hope. Luckily, a number of wine shops and wineries in the area are available every week — just check our Friday to Friday listings — to help mongrels like me class up the joint a little bit.

I want to understand the artist’s process more than I do now. I want to (legally) stalk actors, chefs, musicians and painters in order to discover how they do what they do. I’m interested in the finished product, of course, but I have the artistic creativity of a candy cane and therefore can’t fathom all the labor that goes into a theater production or concert. In the coming months, the Entertainer will roll out a multi-part series on the behind-the-scenes work that enables mid-valley artists to dazzle us on a daily basis.

I want to reconnect with my Wild West heritage, and the best way I know how is to crank up the country tunes. The best place to do it is in Sweet Home at the 19th Oregon Jamboree, where some of the biggest names in country music — Ronnie Dunn of the incomparable Brooks & Dunn, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker and plenty more — will perform July 29-31.

I want to sit trackside for a Sick Town Derby Dames roller derby match and cheer as the ladies from Albany and Corvallis — with aliases like Jala-Pain-Yo and Cruel Anne Unusual — pummel their foes into the flat track when their season starts in a few month’s time.

I want to be wowed by the popular Albany Nosh Tour when the excursion through some of the town’s best restaurants returns in March.

I want to watch a classic movie on the big screen at Albany Pix Theatre for the first time. I want Corvallis' Darkside Cinema to continue being the godsend it is and bring obscure, brilliant movies to the mid-valley.

I want Chamber Music Corvallis and the Corvallis-OSU Symphony Orchestra to continue to lure the best musicians and music from every corner of the planet to our humble home.

I want the vast pool of talented authors and poets in the area to give me the literary nourishment necessary to survive the coldest winter in human history.

I want the collection of local restaurants to convince me that the mid-valley has better food than Tucson.

You get the idea, 2011. I want all this and then some, and I need you to deliver. I need to experience the Linn-Benton area the way it’s meant to be experienced.

And maybe along the way you’ll learn to love me too.

XOXO,

— Tyler Hansen

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