About This Festival
Come the second weekend of July, along the sylvan banks of the Long Tom River, a mini Woodstock transpires. Topless lasses with flower-painted boobs cavort next to dudes in full Krishna regalia. White-haired ladies wearing wings of mossy branches sway beside 'shrooming Deadheads. Parades of belly dancers and giant puppets snake through the forest. The music may not be Jimi Hendrix caliber, but the overall vibe is spot-on for the hippie crowd.
Welcome to the Oregon Country Fair, an event with a mission to create "experiences that nourish the spirit, explore living artfully and authentically on Earth, and transform culture in magical, joyous and healthy ways."
Arts, Crafts & Tofu
The grounds are one big marketplace of flower-child wares. Obsidian windcatchers? Copper fairies? Three-button moccasins? All here. Hell, you can even buy a rainbow (made of multi-hued shimmering fabric). More than 700 artisans sell their works onsite, ranging from the expected (dreamcatchers, healing crystals, Dark Side of the Moon art) to the less expected (handmade harps, yurts).
Browsing works up an appetite, and there's nothing like a nice hempnut burger to take the edge off. Organic chanterelle ravioli does the job equally well, or chow on souvlaki, enchiladas, tofu bites or other organic goodness from the many food booths. Alas, the Fair doesn't serve alcohol, so you'll have to wash it down with a fruit smoothie.
Eighteen stages pepper the grounds, hosting a smorgasbord of performances. Jugglers get equal time with slam poets, belly dancers appear alongside puppets, and marching bands trade notes with folk guitarists. The Fair's Peach Pit magazine lists the schedule at each stage. Here's the gist of what you'll find:
- Main Stage: Set in a wide sunny meadow, it's the Fair's largest venue, but the headliners aren't the usual big-name acts. Instead, experimental folk singers strum guitars made from shovels, or a group of Zimbabweans drum, or a local trip-hop band sounds off.
- Daredevil Palace: Where jugglers, clowns and musical spoons play.
- Shady Grove Stage: Acoustic music under a leafy tree.
- Kesey Stage: A grab bag of styles and acts.
- Gypsy Stage: Middle Eastern music and dance.
- WC Fields Stage: New vaudeville shows.
- Spirit Tower: Dance and hip-hop.
- Rabbit Hole: Spoken word performances.
- Front Porch: More spoken word.
- Blue Moon Stage: Folk music.
- Stage Left: Circus acts.
- Chez Ray's Next Stage: Music and poetry.
- Monkey Palace: Acrobatics, dance, magic and participatory activities.
- Mighty Tiny Puppet Theater: Where creatures come to life by hand and by string.
- Hoarse Chorale: Rock and folk music.
- Morningwood Odditorium: Weird and wonderful acts.
Wandering performers roam the grounds, and parades strike up every few hours. Everyone is invited to march alongside the horn-tooting musicians, giant puppets and stilt walkers - and most Fair-goers do. Percussionists bang on their drums all day at the Drum Tower. Bring your own instrument to join the circle.
Kids & Nature
The Fair welcomes children with open arms. They get their own area - the Kids Loop - a playground with climbing structures. The Monkey Palace and Puppet Theater venues appeal to the younger set with their acrobats, magicians and singalongs. And there's face painting galore. Need a break? Drop off the kids at one of the two supervised childcare areas for a small fee.
The Fair's biggest playground is the great outdoors. The 280 wooded acres make for nature-packed field trips. The Fair even publishes a guide to the site's butterflies and wildflowers, so you'll know your painted ladies and pale tiger swallowtails as they flutter around clumps of fairy lanterns and broad-leafed shooting stars.
The Fair works hard to protect this magical environment. It produces zero waste and operates its equipment with renewable fuel derived from vegetable oil. It also educates about sustainability at Energy Park, a section of the Fair with demonstrations on solar power, wind power, alternative transportation and organic agriculture.
History of OCF
The first Fair was held in 1969 to raise funds for a local alternative school. Admission cost $1, and it drew more than 2000 people. Today some 45,000 people attend the Fair and it continues its philanthropic mission, donating $600,000 to nonprofit groups in the past 15 years alone.
In 1972, the Grateful Dead headlined a benefit concert at the Fair's grounds. Proceeds went to Springfield Creamery, an organic yogurt and cheese maker nearby owned by author Ken Kesey's family. The Dead repeated the event in 1982.