Pickathon to continue dancing in Happy Valley for another decade

By Rob Manning (OPB)
Feb. 29, 2024 1:26 a.m.

The multiday music festival on Pendarvis Farm received approval for a 10-year conditional use permit from Happy Valley’s planning commission Tuesday night.

Pickathon’s run in Clackamas County will continue.

The music festival, known for bringing thousands of people to camp and frolic on a hillside close to Portland, has overcome worries from neighbors and the complications of encroaching development for at least another decade.

Fruit Bats on the Mt. Hood Stage at Pickathon 2019

Fruit Bats on the Mt. Hood Stage at Pickathon 2019.

David Christensen

The city of Happy Valley’s planning commission unanimously approved a 10-year conditional use permit Tuesday, after staff recommended approval. The permit allows the festival to continue at its current location and for “an expansion of some of the ancillary sites to allow for off-site parking, camping, dining and other supporting activities.”

By Wednesday morning, Pickathon organizers were celebrating with emails to previous attendees with subject lines like “We passed: Pickathon lives!”

Pickathon has been around for a quarter century, most of that time at its current location on Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley. In recent years, development has closed in around the farm, leading organizers and attendees alike to worry that the festival might have to move or shut down. In recent months, organizers reached out to supporters to contact the Happy Valley Planning Commission, which could decide the festival’s future through the land-use permit process.

The public record for the decision ran nearly 1,700 pages, the vast majority of it testimonials in support from people who have attended the multiday concert over the years. Many of those letters started similarly with the words “I want Pickathon to continue at Pendarvis Farm!” but then continued with personal accounts of their experiences at the festival. Only a handful of submitted comments were from neighbors in opposition to the permit renewal.


Previous permits for Pickathon allowed for up to 5,000 paying attendees at any given time. That cap will be raised to 8,500 paid patrons at any given time. In addition up to “3,500 non-paid attendees/volunteers may staff the event,” according to the recommended staff conditions.

Pickathon’s application included reassurances about traffic, noise and other concerns raised by neighbors. It also mapped out areas the event intends to use for parking and other uses.

Supporters, led by CEO Zale Schoenborn, made the case to planning commissioners that the permit would support an ongoing, positive community event on Portland’s doorstep.

“Even after all this time — 19 years — we still remain passionate about having an uplifting and inclusive event here in the city,” Schoenborn said to the planning commission. “We aim to bring world-class culture to Happy Valley, bringing families and people together and making a sense of community.”

Pickathon was unable to host shows in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, two workers at Pickathon were killed when a boom lift fell while crews were dismantling stages after the festival ended — a tragedy that prompted changes at the 2023 festival.

Even before receiving the 10-year permit, Pickathon organizers were positioning themselves for the long term.

Schoenborn said he and his staff started meeting with neighbors last fall in an effort to address concerns and float the idea of protecting the farm against development. In comments to the planning commission, Schoenberg said he’d like the Pendarvis Farm to be a public amenity well beyond the August weekend when Pickathon comes to town.

“It creates, not only the ability to continue for the next 10 years, but that is essentially an umbrella of stability, a time for us to engage, to become the catalyst, the lead developer, to think about turning Pendarvis Farm into a year-round amenity for Happy Valley,” Schoenborn said, suggesting the farm could be a cultural or conservation center that complements efforts to develop the nearby downtown area.

In the immediate term, festival organizers wasted no time after getting the permit approval, announcing tickets would be available for the Aug. 1-4, 2024, festival starting Feb. 29.

Opponents of the permit have until late March to appeal the decision to the Happy Valley City Council.