Monday, July 13, 2015

Oregon Country Fair

On Sunday, I went to the Oregon County Fair for the first time. I've lived in Eugene for five years, and this was my first time going, and I'm sad it took me so long. I've generally always worked weekends and haven't had time before. But I took the day off specifically so I could go, because Paul was volunteering there, at the native edible plants information booth.

The Oregon Country Fair is indescribable. It's set on 280 acres in Veneta, about 30 minutes away from Eugene. It started in 1969, and in 1972 hosted The Grateful Dead as a fundraiser for Nancy's Yogurt which is run by Ken Kesey's family. It's the mecca of counterculture.  

 About 45,000 people come a year.  It's huge! I've been to other festivals, like Sasquatch, renaissance fairs, and Faerieworlds, but this was on another level.  Paul and I wandered around for several hours, but when we looked at the map, we had only looped through 1/4 of the fair.  I heard someone say that walking through the whole fair one way was 3 miles of walking. And when you spend eight hours there, and you do a lot of going back and forth, like Paul and I did, that's a lot of walking.

It's really combination of a lot of things. There were hundreds of craft booths, selling everything from jewelry to handmade soap to puppets. There was a lot of delicious food; Paul and I had beignets, a chalupa, and Ethiopian food.  There were also informational booths, like the plant booth Paul volunteered at, where they gave some public talks. Lots of booths had these tree house like structures built on top of them, where the workers camped out. It was insane. It was like a whole two story city built into the middle of the forest. Then there were about 14 stages scattered throughout where they performed music, acrobatics, and just about everything else.  Paul and I saw a really interesting mime/dance performance where someone swallowed a sword. There were also little yurts and tents set up everywhere for hula hooping, juggling lessons, yoga, and a dance floor.  There were also all of these big interactive art installations, like the giant hummingbird made of plastic bottles filled with different colored liquid, a giant globe, and a big maze of colored ribbon to run through.

  Some people went just because it was a thing to do on the weekend. Some people's whole year revolves around the fair. There were old people, young people, families, naked people, people of all colors, shapes, and sizes. And everyone was happy. An acrobat took the microphone in the middle of their performance and gave an impassioned speech about Bernie Sanders. Paul and I, while in line for food, befriended a cattle farmer who had been a vegetarian for 34 years. People were always waving at you saying "happy fair!" When we ran into friends, they asked us, "how's your fair?" because it's not just an event you go to, it's an experience in itself, not how's the fair, but how's your fair. I think that's really beautiful.

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