John Flannery is in the business of helping people navigate Bend and has been for almost twenty years. Even if you don’t know Flannery, you’ve probably seen him over the years, shuttling customers in his pedal cab or zipping around in his Green Energy charter bus, entertaining clients with a stream-of-conciousness monologue over his PA system. Flannery traded the pedal cab and bus for Bend Tour Company, an adventure and cultural tourism business. His latest venture emphasizes what Flannery has been great at: sharing his love of all things Bend with a captive audience. Flannery launched the original roundabout art tour in his Green Energy shuttle days and remains a vocal proponent of Bend’s arts scene, advocating for people to “create with gumption.”
On Finding Himself
Bend basically came from wanting a town I knew I could commit to. I wanted a town that had some amenities, but I also wanted a town I could grow with. At that time, 1998, it was a community where you didn’t have to cross five highways to go outside, a community where I could find something to do besides being a bartender. I wanted to no longer be the guy getting people schnockered. That was when I started my bus (The Green Energy Transportation and Tour) taking people home once they did get schnockered!
On Change and Growth
I think people don’t understand that like any town, you can be part of the community beyond just living here. There is opportunity still for people to do what they want to do in the way they want to do it, but they need to create with gumption. If you are going to be here, please be a part of it. Bend has grown out of what it was and there is no going back, sadly. But we wouldn’t be the community we are without this development. The development has brought us great things like the High Desert Museum or the BendFilm Festival. The side I appreciate now, is the art community. Being on the Bend Cultural Commission, seeing people have a passion to support cultural aspects of this community rather than just the mountain bike trails or hiking trails, is really cool.
On Supporting Art
Art has passion behind it, history behind it. And for our community, there is a huge value there. I try to show on the tour that this is not just a town that went from resource extraction to recreation extraction, but rather there is so much more here. Whether it is professional artists or amateur artists, there is so much art everywhere, you pass it every day and even if you are not conscious of passing it, you feel it. It’s important and valuable to making our community happy. As we grow, I just hope people continue to support it.
On Finding Balance
Everybody values different things. Over the years, I have had to change how I am involved with the community. I have a kid now and I felt selfish, at first, not being so involved with things in town, but then I realized if I didn’t put my energy into my kid, he is going to grow up and be an asshole! So that is where a lot of my focus goes these days. One day my son asked me, “Why do we involve ourselves in things that have nothing to do with us?” and I explained, “Flannerys have always been a little grease on the skid, helping the world move along.” It’s not always altruistic—it does benefit us for things to go smoothly. It’s just a matter of keeping the world happier.
On Giving Direction
I get flack from someone I work with that I talk on the phone too much. Go figure, I’m a chatty Charlie! But, it has two purposes. One is to answer questions and the second is to cut off further questions, so they don’t need to call back. And wanting to make people feel welcome. A lot of my day is seeing people who look lost and engaging them and helping them get directions. There is nothing my kid hates more than when we see someone who looks lost. Because I’m like, “Hey, here’s our chance. Let’s see what they need!” And he is like, “Can’t we just go to the playground?” But, even if someone walks in our door and they aren’t looking for us, I just want them to land somewhere happy.