Bunchgrasser’s World

My unique filter on life

2008 Oregon Country Fair

Posted by bunchgrasser on July 14, 2008

On Sunday we joined my Brother-in-law and his family for a day at the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta, Oregon. This was only my second trip to OCF and I had almost forgotten how interesting this annual event is. In it’s 39th year, OCF has certainly grown and evolved, but without losing it’s character and purpose. The organizers, vendors and volunteers do a great job of keeping everyone safe, entertained and happy.

Our decision to arrive at the fair early for the 11:00am opening allowed us to park closer (parking is located in fields adjacent to the wooded fair site and can be a long walk for some arriving later in the day). On this day, with temperatures soaring into the 90’s, it seemed like a wise move. For those that plan to make it a multi-day event, I believe there is camping nearby as well.

The fair is set up mostly in a wooded area in a shape similar to that of a figure eight. Once you move past the entrance you basically meander through a wide trail, lined on each side with hobbitt-like vendor booths hawking everything from “hippy” noodles and vegan burritos to crystals, pottery and elizabethan hats. There is something for everyone here, even if you only require a snow cone heavily laden with Portland Punch.

In addition to the various vendors, there are several performance stages featuring live music and some entertainers simply perform along the trail, where it takes only seconds for an appreciative crowd to form and begin dropping coins and bills into the hat.

Truth be told, this festival is one of the greatest people-watching locations around. In fact, the fair’s attendees are one of it’s greatest attractions. Many come in colorful, garish renaissance costumes. Many of the women go topless (with or without body paint), but it is accepted and seemingly appreciated (especially by us hack photographers).

Among the things you won’t see here are: processed food, soda pop, alcohol, video cameras, corporate sponsorships, tables of factory-made tourist junk, etc. From my observations, most, if not all food is prepared on site and items for sale are handcrafted.

I left the fair in the afternoon, hot & tired – but strangely invigorated. I couldn’t really put my finger on this feeling the last time that I attended. But I think I’ve figured it out – OCF is different because it encourages everyone to be different. To be themselves and express their own brand of creativity without conforming to a societal standard. Case in point, one of the photos in my 2008 OCF Flickr set is of a man wearing nothing but body paint and a small sack around his genitals. I just happened to follow this man through the front entrance and later saw him again inside the fair where I photographed him. Care to guess how that would go over at the Oregon State Fair?

I can’t say whether I’ll attend OCF next year. I haven’t felt the need for an annual visit in the past, but this year I think I realized just how unique this festival really is. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back next year – in body paint!


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