Over the last two years I’ve peeked into it through the lens of Portland’s culture through a particularly colorful lens: local events. I’ve covered everything from the dog show to the Naked Bike Ride to the Rose City Comic Con, finding a piece of Portland culture in each.

Sure, there was beer, and yes, there were thousands of naked cyclists, but take a step back and you’ll see a culture that encompasses those quirks like natural fibers into a larger and more diverse tapestry. That tapestry is the spirit Portland, and if we follow those threads we can find little bits of ourselves – our own contributions to the culture of the community.

This event-based view of our culture is best told through images, these ones taken by the Oregonian/OregonLive photographers over the last year. And after writing thousands of words about our local events, here are my takeaways from Portland in 2015.

Dressing up

If one trend is crystal clear after 2015, it’s that Portlanders love to dress up. There was all the cosplay at Rose City Comic Con and Wizard World – that’s part of an international trend – but then people dressed to the nines at events like the Tweed Ride and the GearCon steampunk convention. They donned zombie makeup on Zombie Day and for Thrill the World. They found outfits for the UFO Festival, the Mardi Gras parade and the Beard and Moustache Competition. They even put on costumes for competitive footraces. With all this, Portland might very well be the costume capital of the country.

Getting naked

What’s Portland’s biggest event of the year? Easy. The World Naked Bike Ride, in which 10,000 people gather to cycle through the city in the nude, some untold thousands gather to watch and people the world over click on galleries of images to gawk at the city that dares to bare all.

Cannabis gets legit

Nothing else changed Portland’s events scene quite like the legalization of recreational cannabis. Before 2015, we had only one big marijuana-themed event each year: Hempstalk. This year alone saw an explosion of new happenings: industry trade shows, cannabis competitions and that big giveaway known as Weed the People. Expect even more in 2016.

Beards, cats and cuddles

What’s a year in Portland without a little innovation? In 2015, we saw a few new events that pushed out cultural needle into a fuzzier dimension. There was Cuddle Con, at which strangers paid admission to cuddle with each other; the first Rose City Beard and Moustache Competition, a very Portland take on facial hair contests; and cats just everywhere – at the new cat café, at the old International Cat Show and in the form of Lil Bub, who made his first visit to Portland this year.

Embracing the Willamette

The trend isn’t new, but in 2015, Portlanders continued their slow embrace of recreation in the Willamette River. This year saw the return of the Big Float and the Bridge Swim, but we also welcomed a new event to the shores of the river: the Naked Goddess Swim, which for the last few years had been taking over a secluded cove in Oregon City. Welcome to the Willamette, everyone.

–Jamie Hale | jhale@oregonian.com | @HaleJamesB

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