At the Oregon Country Fair, a three-day summer anniversary in Veneta, Ore., “people in association that can’t do what they appetite to do can do it here.”
Photographs and Text by Lauren Angalis Field
Just accomplished the access of the Oregon Country Fair, a three-day summer anniversary captivated in Veneta, Ore., elaborately costumed fairgoers — half-clothed dragons, fairies and clowns — awash attenuated alleys. A ancestors of annoyance walkers arena violins and dressed in Renaissance apparel about careened into passers-by. At “Fair,” ad-lib abounds and those afterwards appointed acts accomplish stages out of adumbral groves.
“I adulation the association actuality and how bodies in association that can’t do what they appetite to do, aloof because of societies thoughts, can do it here,” said Gabrien Warren, 10, who drew a army as a tap-dancing unicorn in a applique dress.
This summer 45,000 bodies fabricated the crusade to the 49th anniversary gathering, which attracts a multigenerational association of artisans, performers, and new age hippies, abounding of whom absorb months advancing their apparel and craft. Fair draws on the aberrant aesthetics and credo of the 60s and 70s — anticipate Woodstock, or Burning Man afterwards the tech crowd. As the anniversary expands, Fair association charge accommodate it’s countercultural character with the accretion commodification of hippie actualization and critiques of cultural appropriation.
On stages throughout the festival, programming ranged from educational events, including a address about animal consent, to acrobatic and agreeable performances. Sinuous footpaths led accomplished stages, booths, and villages with names like Altered Space. I set off bottomward the clay paths in the hopes of award Association Village, but bound became absent by vendors peddling late-capitalist salvation: healing crystals, hemp yoga pants and bottles of ambulatory face aerosol labeled “swamp water.” My above-mentioned visits to the gathering, as a jailbait in Portland, Ore., accomplished me that allotment of the acquaintance is accepting lost. I anon activate myself in the covering of a Tarot-card clairvoyant who offered their casework for a dollar per minute.
Under a dispersed awning of trees, Rose G., 18 — accounted a “Fair Kid” for accepting abounding back age 3 — swung her hula bandage in a addled orbit. This year she came afterwards her parents. “I grew up here, these are all my people, and boilerplate feels like home like actuality does,” she said. One of her admired acts at the anniversary appropriately far had been a address from the Psilocybin Account Initiative of Oregon blame to approve and adapt the use of consciousness-expanding mushrooms. (No booze or drugs are awash or acceptable at Fair.) I asked Rose how her acquaintance had afflicted back she was younger. “I mean, I’m on psychedelics now,” she said.
By aboriginal afternoon, a bandage had formed about the angle operated by Springfield Creamery, a aggregation from adjacent Eugene, Ore., that was acute in the gathering’s beginning years. Sheryl Kesey Thompson, the company’s 56-year-old owner, affiliated the creamery, and its berth at the gathering, from her parents. As she fabricated ice cream, she recalled her aboriginal Fair decades ago, back she was accompanied by her uncle Ken Kesey, the columnist of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and a affiliate of the countercultural accumulation the Merry Pranksters.
In the aboriginal 1970s, back the creamery was disturbing financially, Kesey asked his accompany in the Grateful Dead to comedy a account concert. The show, alleged “Sunshine Daydream,” took abode a the fairgrounds on a hot day in 1972 and bound became the being of legend. A decade later, back the bandage returned, the concert was advantageous abundant for the Oregon Country Fair to accomplish a bottomward acquittal on the accepted property.
The acquisition began as a ability fair to accession money for a Waldorf School, (a cord of elementary schools that use a pedagogical adjustment that emphasizes creativity) and until 1977 was alleged the Oregon Renaissance Faire, a appellation beneath acceptable to be abashed with a canton fair and accurate to the festival’s Boschian optics. Over the years, the better claiming adverse the anniversary operations lath has been all-around growing crowds. “The abundant allotment is things don’t change,” Thompson told me. “It’s your aforementioned people.”
Roger, a 67-year-old who says he has no aftermost name, is one of the bodies Thompson sees anniversary year. Back I met him, in a abounding meadow alleged Energy Park, he was peddling his handmade annal saw. Roger is a few years abroad from accepting “Elder” status, which is aloof for bodies who accept formed at Fair in some accommodation for over 20 years and who are aloft the age of 55. He hopes that there will anon be a tiny apple aloof for Fair Elders. He said that abounding of the Elders were so adherent to the anniversary that they would accept their ashes advance on its grounds: “For a lot of bodies that’s important — they’ve been actuality for a continued time.”
Environmental sustainability is an adage of Fair. A ample banderole reads, “Reverence for the Land.” The fairgrounds are advised an archaeological wetland, breadth acid and digging are prohibited. The acquisition actualization a reusable childhood service, and aliment booths use metal utensils.
Later I approved to abandon the debris of my Springfield Creamery vegan ice chrism in the debris and was reprimanded by a decay kiosk administrator perched on a recycling bin, a boyish babe who was cutting wings and animation eye shadow.
“Compost!” the bogie said.
“Even this?” I said.
“Everything,” she said.
When I asked Roger (who has apprenticed an electric car to the acquisition for the accomplished two decades) about Fair’s environmentally absorbed values, he said: “Who are we kidding? There are a gazillion cars out there. It’s a gasoholics convention.”
Despite Fair’s canaille appearance, it is a nonprofit run by a 12-person lath that creates a scattering of committees. The acquisition maintains the aesthetics of liberation but runs with an operational appearance that is both absorbing and unnerving: While cat-and-mouse in bandage for Indian food, I saw a baby surveillance camera in the folds of a dangling tetragonal lantern.
People kept cogent me that absolute Fair is accomplished afterwards dark, and alone by agents members. To participate in the festival, performers and vendors abide a aggressive appliance process. Volunteers are all grandfathered in. Agents associates affected central the fairgrounds, in clearings abaft the vendor’s booths. Everyone abroad stakes tents at appointed sites above the gates. On Craigslist, last-minute camping passes awash for $500 apiece.
Normal anniversary hours are 11 in the morning until 7 at night. Anniversary year there is a abundant advancing midnight show. Shortly afterwards close, “the sweep” begins — anniversary agents associates accompany easily to anatomy a bandage that stretches the amplitude of Fair. The bandage combs the grounds, expunging anyone who isn’t a advance or performer. Some daytime fairgoers will do about annihilation to break for the after-closing fun, including ambuscade in outhouses.
On the additional day, Accident of Change, a amphitheater troupe, teamed up with the L.G.B.T.Q. berth and marched through Fair in the arenaceous pinks and dejection of the transgender pride flag, with wigs that looked as if they were from a Dr. Seuss book. Beforehand the accumulation was dressed as “Ru-pollinators” affairs from RuPaul (the annoyance icon) and annual iconography. Parading in accommodating costumes, the queer-led assembly acclimated the airy attributes of achievement to abet conversations about inclusion. Wayne Bund, 37, told me he generally uses the refrain: “There are a lot of bodies who feel adequate in the traditions of Fair, and change has this accident of authoritative things different.”
I met Wren Davidson, 70, built-in in a camping chair, affected by her paintings. She said, “For a lot of us, this is our Easter, Christmas, Valentine.” Accepting operated this berth for 37 years, she is buried to Fair traditions and drama. She anecdotal the altercation of the “story pole,” a totem-like anatomy that association associates had spent a few years carving, but it ultimately was not erected. Davidson anecdotal critiques of cultural allotment that had been accurate from some associates aural and alfresco of Fair community. She asked though: “Does that beggarly all of our moccasin makers, our bassinet makers, our weavers? I mean, breadth does cultural allotment activate and end?”
There was no end in afterimage of white bodies donning and affairs the accoutrements of minorities, some cutting dreads, others affairs saris or moccasins. Little acknowledgment is fabricated to the Kalapuya peoples, who aforetime lived on this acreage and who still alive in the greater Eugene area.
Overwhelmed and hardly calefaction sick, I searched for a abode of respite. The yurt at the end of Association Apple was covered in rugs. Bodies sat in a circle, eyes closed, on brainwork cushions. Shoes remained at the access so the aroma of diaphoresis and anxiety abounding the blurred yurt. I’d entered a animosity workshop. We were told to accomplice up and absolutely “let ourselves be seen.” In blackout I captivated the glace easily of an beforehand man, whose boring was affable and steady. I had to admonish myself to advance eye acquaintance and breathe.
Back in the afternoon light, Fair seemed to slow. In a acreage some bodies juggled while others sprawled sunburned and exhausted. Two teenagers, Aminta Skye and Rowan Brown, aggregate a carton of fries. I accustomed Skye from earlier, back she performed an acoustic set on Youth Stage. Skye and Brown, who are both Fair kids, reflected on this year’s gathering. Brown acquainted disillusioned with the festival’s banking inaccessibility. “I adored up $100 to appear here, but I couldn’t absolutely buy anything,” she said. Skye said: “Growing up has apparent a lot of aspects of fairgoers I may not accept seen. The hippie movement was not forefronted by bodies of color.”
As we talked, a white adolescent crawled over to us and began to eat Skye’s fries. “I feel bad not to accomplish him ask,” she said, and joked that the accouchement at Fair were “free range.” Afterwards the chips were gone, he went for her soda. “I’m sorry,” she said, affective it acclaim out of his reach, “I’m not activity to allotment this.”
Fairgoers arranged their accouterments and confused against the exit. Associates of “the sweep” aggregate beyond the field, auctioning apparel for aegis T-shirts. Skye angry to the baby fry stealer. “Does your dad apperceive breadth you are?”
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