We headed to Eugene, Oregon, on our trip that at one point included a visit to Crater Lake—a visit we canceled because the lake is still under many feet of snow—and when our friends suggested we go to the Oregon Country Fair, we agreed. I was enthusiastic, having gone to the Montgomery County Fair and New York State Fair at least a dozen times combined. I’m a fan of seeing which child’s chinchilla took the blue ribbon, who won for best blueberry pie, and honestly, is there anything more exhilarating than going for a ride on a rickety Ferris Wheel?
The Oregon Country Fair is none of these things.
It was only once we arrived in Eugene, which I affectionately say is like Portland without any of PDX’s sophistication, that I learned that we were basically going to attend a hippiefest. It’s a little bit Renaissance Festival, little bit new age bookstore, little bit craft fair, and a lot of body odor. These are the people who rub crystals on their armpits instead of infecting themselves with aluminum-based deodorants.*
The Country Fair runs the second weekend of July every year, and that’s it, but it’s always in the same spot because the festival owns the land.
We grabbed a Eugene bus and showed the driver our tickets to the event, then rode for about half an hour into the humid, lightly wooded area where the fair was held. I knew we were getting closer because an impromptu campsite had sprung up outside the event grounds, an area where most of the neighbors have planted A-frame signs on their lawns beseeching the fair goers to be respectful and keep their litter to themselves. My right eyebrow, always the most disdainful, jaded part of my face, crept up its standard half inch to suggest that a crowd which prompted perennial signs from the townsfolk could be a touch problematic.
This is why I don’t let my right eyebrow make all of my decisions for me.
Finally we were through the gate and into a new universe, a place where the Tea Party’s finest are afraid to venture. Near the entrance was a music stage for children, and I admit wholeheartedly that I am a fan of joyous, friendly songs about tooth brushing. There’s always time for singing about hygiene, people. Seems more fair attendees could have used some quality time listening to these songs, as what passed for bathrooms needed some tender loving scrubbing.
Poor Susanne, I thought. She’s up to a restroom break every 45 minutes or so now. But to the fair’s credit, when an employee saw her standing in line, she came over and asked, “Are you pregnant? Come with me!” Two points for the differently abled bathrooms!
And here I thought people would only approach Susanne to paint her pregnant belly.
We did see some painted fetuses, as well as breasts with some kind of decoupage on them. I no longer will wonder how a winking eye will look laid over a fat areola, not that I had any curiosity about it before.
There was the Girl Circus, twirling on a long, long swath of royal purple silk, the “raw pie,” which I can’t say I’ll ever attempt to replicate in my own kitchen, and the throngs of drummers, making me homesick for Malcom X Park in DC, where impromptu percussion is a mainstay. I kept an eye out for meat on a stick, but didn’t find any. A plate of tamales, however, hit the right spot. Confusion hit when I tried to rid myself of the plate, napkins, and steel fork—there was a long line of receptacles for paper, reusable utensils, plastic, aluminum, and glass. I could barely wrap my head around what to put where. How did all of the stoned fair goers handle this? It was almost cruel.
The trees did a good job of filtering out most of the heat, but it grew more oppressive as the afternoon dragged on. In the midst of our walking, we passed through more than one plume of pot smoke. Strangely this was preferable to the mix of body odors, but problematic for the ones of us with expanded uteri.
At one point a bunch of people decked out in steampunk costumes wandered by. An older hippie couple—I mean, I think they were real hippies from the 1960s—wondered out loud what steampunk was all about.
Ooh, ooh, I know this! In my mind, my fifth grader thrust his hand up in the air to give the answer. I smiled and told them. Good deed done for the day, ka-ching.
When Susanne looked like her Canadian Threshold of Summer was about to max out, we called it a day, enjoying the air conditioned ride back to downtown Eugene. People may be bleeding heart liberals in Eugene proper, but they wait for the woods to wink their breasts in public.