Much happened in Eastern Oregon in 2018, but one thing was lacking — a consensus, No. 1 news event of the year.

That’s not always a bad thing. Some years are marked by trouble or tragedy, the closing of a major employer, a natural disaster or a terrible loss of life. We lost loved ones to be sure, and saw too many taken before their time through accidents and crime. Such is life in any given year in any given town, and we don’t mean to diminish any of those.

But in an area as diverse and spread out as ours, it is difficult to put one’s finger on the singular event or trend that captured a majority of our attention in 2018.

We should count it as a blessing that Pendleton, Hermiston and Morrow County can by and large chalk up 2018 as a positive year of growth and productivity, and the stories of the year as selected by the East Oregonian staff point to that.

We won’t rehash the Top 10 stories — you can read them for yourself in today’s edition. But some stories that didn’t quite rise to the top will nonetheless resonate for years to come.

It was a midterm election year, but after record campaigning (and campaign fundraising) we saw little change in office. We did hear new ideas that put old ones to the test, including a vigorous challenge to U.S. Rep. Greg Walden by Jamie McLeod-Skinner. But just as we found the 2nd Congressional District wasn’t quite ready to embrace a new voice, the state of Oregon wasn’t prepared to usher out establishment Gov. Kate Brown and try Republican upstart Knute Buehler.

Locally, we saw steady, gradual change, with highlights marking the development. Hermiston’s downtown continued to morph with the opening of the Harkenrider Center and the Festival Street. The new Maxwell farmers market turned every Thursday summer evening into an event, and the city’s takeover of the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center began a shift that will play out in the coming years.

The Pendleton Whisky Music Fest, already a hit in its first two years, reached new heights with dual acts Pitbull and Blake Shelton, and Pendleton continued to draw visitors from all corners of the world seeking an authentic Western experience. New housing continued to go up, setting a foundation for further economic development.

We have the good fortune of being removed by a few degrees from national politics. While it is fascinating (and sometimes horrifying) to watch the unfolding drama in Washington D.C. during these tumultuous times, its impact often doesn’t reach our daily lives. That allows us to focus on the reasons we’ve chosen to live in these parts — the tight-knit communities, the wide-open spaces and the room to build and make things better. We’re glad to report none of that changed in 2018.

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