My first Oregon Country Fair

In this moment, I just want to runaway and go back to the fair.

“Take me back to the fair…back to dusty path ways, back to mossy green trees…Take me back to the fair, back to cherry stomping grounds, back to fire pits so loud, back to where i feel proud…Take me back to the fair…that’s where I wanna be…” – Patrick Files

I first heard about the Oregon Country Fair from my friend Nick. He talked about all it’s wonders and splendors and I knew that one day I would make it. It took me a couple years, but I finally made it to the fair in 2011 since Handful was playing that year. To say it was an amazing time is an udnerstatement. There has been so many times I’ve tried to describe this place to people and in the end I just have to show them pictures, and even then, I still feel like the beauty isn’t captured.

Essentially, OCF has been occuring every second weekend of July for 44 years just outside of Eugene, Oregon. The fair takes place on a wonderful piece of land that is surrounded by a moat, and the music, art, and activities all take place underneath the beautiful canopy of trees and treehouses. This three day fair is a wonderful place for people of all ages, and I think a much happier place than Disneyland. There is no official accommodation for the fair, except for the “reunions” surrounding the fair. These are essentially campgrounds, although property owners don’t advertise them as campgrounds otherwise they have to go through the whole bureaucratic loops and taxes.

This year we stayed at the Darling Reunion. We arrived late at night, but the grounds were far from closed. Everything was illuminated with colorful lights…when we finally found our spot, thankfully saved by our wonderful friend Jenn, we set up our tents and wandered around the grounds. The pathways were lit up with little lights and there was even a craft market area and we shopped for some goodies. I grabbed us some prayer flags to hang around our tent area so we can easily find our way. My favorite memory that night was as we were sitting on our little corner watching the people walk by, I saw a group of people with a couple of light sabors. Me, in all of my silliness immediately jumped up and said “Are those light sabors??!! Do they make the noises??” The guy laughed and said “Of course!” and handed me one. We immediately had a light sabor fight in the middle of the “road” for a few minutes and then I let them go and joined up with a giant light up jelly fish thing. Music at the campground goes until 3 or 4 in the morning I think. Somehow I found a way to pass out earlier.

The next morning I couldn’t stop smiling at all of the wonderful things our campground had to offer. Essentially it was it’s own fair. But I couldn’t wait to get to the real fair! Greeted by stiltwalkers, a foam dance area, and crews of people all uniquely wonderful, I felt like I was just transplanted to never never land. After getting lost in the maze of pathways, stuffing your faces with “avocado boats” (half of an avocado stuffed with cheese, hummus and tazikiki sauce), you can find some peace in the yoga area, or groove to any of the many music stages.

There’s so much to do it’s hard to describe, and ‘m sure every year it changes. I told myself I would never miss another fair again. When I bought my ticket to Italy, knowing it would be possible for me to return, I made sure that I kept he fair dates in mind. In the end, I couldn’t justify the money to fly back out so I had to miss the fair…but I hope to return next year.

I bought my first doumbek drum, that was beautifully crafted by Full Circle Drums. Katie and I fell in love with these drums and we had to have one. Choosing one was really difficult until I saw one that was hanging in the top corner. Unlike the other blue/brown glazed drums, this one was white and almost porcelien like. It was a bit spendy, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it and that it would be the perfect souvenier for me. The lotus flower screamed Sandy, and everyone else agreed. The best part was the Michael, our lovely drummer from Handful approved of the sound quality, saying that normally he doesn’t like the ceramic drums, but that one had a great sound. Katie couldn’t resist either so she bought a smaller one and together we started our own little parade in the fair. Literally. As we played them through the pathways, random people with other percussion instruments joined in and we had a mini parade. God I love the fair.

The day I bought my drum, after the fair closed for the day, we all went to the band van parked in the fair lot and proceeded to have one of the greatest jam sessions as the sun was setting. I felt so jazzed, I ran off without my shoes (in true fair fashion) back to our campground to join in the late night drum circle. Every night at the Darling reunion there is a large bonfire/drum circle, and there are even fire dancers that come. Anyone can join, and it’s quite the experience. I met some great people that evening, although I wouldn’t be able to tell you for the life of me who those people were the next day. The combination of wine and shadows in the night makes you feel like nothing exists outside of the circle and you don’t even care about what/when tomorrow will bring.

One of my other favorite memories was one day we were walking back to the Darling Reunion, we met a random fella (Clive) who claimed he was a storyteller. Storytelling fella is a best word to describe him because I felt like when we talked to him I felt like I just met a character from Alice in Wonderland. He enunciated things in a strange and entertaining fashion. He was also staying at the reunion and invited us to join him under his tent for some tea and story telling. His palce was hard to miss because it was so massive. We found it on the corner at one of the camground…an extremely large white tent covered the area and underneath were small coffee tables and floor pillows everywhere. It was a glorious night. Clive was indeed a good storyteller, although I can’t recall what the story he told us was about. A prince and some kind of magic potion I think. Maybe.

Half naked painted people, strange costumes, music, the feeling of true freedom from judgement, and complete acceptance of one another are just some of the ways I would describe the fair. I’m not sure what else I could say about it other than it is a must do for anyone, and I can almost promise you you will have a good time.

Don’t worry OCF, I’ll be back soon!! Hopefully with some hula hooping skills!

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