Hometown Proud and Fun: Pendleton - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hometown Proud and Fun: Pendleton

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PENDLETON, OR - For this week's Hometown Proud and Fun, we checked out a town just south of the border in Oregon: Pendleton!

Our reporters' first stop of the day made them feel like kids in the Willy Wonka chocolate factory, at Alexander's Chocolate Classics. Owner Alexander Radcliffe was previously an ER surgeon and decided to become an inner Willy Wonka. He moved to Pendleton in 2005 from Seattle, seeking a change of pace... and that's when he started his chocolate factory.

The factory features 200-300 different types of chocolates, like chocolate truffles, whisky candy bar, and yummy mochas. And it's not all about the chocolate - but also wine with your chocolate. Alex says his real goal to being a Willy Wonka mastermind is to let people enjoy the true aroma of chocolate and wine together.

If you're wondering what's the most popular item here, Alex says it's the cannoli which is filled only when the customer orders it.

Our reporters also checked out the Oregon Grain Growers Brand Distillery, who has a pretty similar story to Alexander's chocolate factory. They also came from a completely different field - working at Microsoft - and decided to come back home and open up the distillery. And it's really unique because it's not just a distillery but also a restaurant... and our reporters got to lend a hand at rolling pizza dough.

The distillery opened just two years ago and in that time they've gone from one distilled to two large ones - producing two brands of vodka and Umatilla Gold whisky. The owner, Kelli Burlington, says this whole process has really been a learning experience for her and her husband.

"We usually do a new special once a week, sometimes twice a week," said Kelli.

They've come a pretty long way in two years and hope to reach more milestones in the next couple months: producing gin, mint vodka, and even watermelon vodka. And they're growing in numbers: this time last year they only had one employee, and now they have 15.

For the end of their day, our reporters found out that there's a lot of history in Pendleton revolving around Native American culture. They headed over to the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute museum, which is basically an interpretive center highlighting all of the Walla Walla, Umatilla, and Cayuse tribal history. They learned about the early days of the tribe leading all the way up to the more modern culture of the tribe. They learned about how different seasons equal different ways of gathering food: for example, winter is for manufacturing; and summer is for scaffolding, or fishing. 

CTUIR Tribe member John Beeves is an interpreter at the museum, and he says Native Americans typically don't brag about their culture, but having this museum is really their way of maintaining the history during modern development.

"If we don't tell our story, then who's gonna?" Beeves asked. "That's the neat thing about it. This is our story, these are our voices."

We also got to see the different houses natives have lived in: back in the day, they had houses made of tule; but now they have canvas tipis.

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