February 22, 2018 | By Jackie Luskey | 1 Comment

Balladtown, USA

Sound the harmonica—the 72nd Annual All Northwest Barbershop Ballad Contest is coming to Forest Grove, March 24. Spend a melodic getaway weekend in the Tualatin Valley. See below for an itinerary in Balladtown, USA.

Barbershop Ballad Itinerary in Ballad Town USAAnnual All Northwest Barbershop Ballad Contest

Friday, March 23

A musically-inclined event bringing you to Forest Grove deserves a musically-inclined hotel. The McMenamins Grand Lodge fits the bill. Lyrics from the owners’ favorite musicians are transcribed onto the walls. In the hotel’s newly renovated attic, book the Coltrane room, which isn’t named so much after John Coltrane as it is a book about the iconic singer, written by New York Times jazz critic, Ben Ratliff. Artwork inspired by Coltrane and jazz music is hand-painted on the walls of the room. After check-in, you can move from the Coltrane room in the attic to the basement’s Equinox Room (named after one of Coltrane’s lesser-known masterpieces. You may not hear a capella here, but there’s a good chance you’ll hear some saxophone over the speakers.

Barbershop ballads are typically associated with Americana culture, but here’s a trip: the tradition may have British roots. Yup, the British expression “barber’s music” denotes an extemporized performance by patrons waiting to be shaved and refers to a barber’s traditional role as a musician. Pay homage to the murky etymology with a pint of beer at the King’s Head Pub. You will be inspired to hum some English pub songs while nibbling a house-made Scotch egg.

Saturday, March 24 

Warm the pipes first things in the morning at Telvet Coffee. The pink horchata and monthly coffee specials are always Instagram-ready (and taste phenomenal, too).

Before heading to the Barbershop Ballad Contest, make a pit-stop at the world’s tallest barber pole. In 1973, the Barbershop Harmony Society held its international convention and championships in Portland. This event inspired locals to craft and install a 70-foot tall barber pole, which still holds the title as the world’s tallest one today.

It’s showtime! With tickets between $18-$20, you can immerse yourself in a day of top-notch singers for essentially the price of a song. The Barbershop Ballad Contest is why Forest Grove is known as Balladtown, USA. The headliners, The Newfangled Four, guarantee a standout performance.

Sunday, March 25

A 10-minute drive from the hotel, the Hillsboro Pharmacy serves up classic breakfast plates. We’re talking perfectly golden hash browns, delightfully runny eggs, griddled toast and thick cut bacon dividing your plate. Bonus: The pharmacy is nestled into Hillsboro’s Main Street, which is dotted with adorable antique stores.


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