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  • Writer's pictureRodrigo Baena

Oregon Country Fair... nothing more local!

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

I've been itching to explore more festivals and fairs lately. That's when a buddy of mine dropped a bombshell: the coolest festival ever, the Oregon Country Fair!

Suddenly, everyone around me started raving about it. A friend mentioned they were performing at the fair, another person raved about taking the day off work just to be there, and even my wife reminisced about her college days at the fair.

I took it as a sign (or maybe I just really wanted to go and found any excuse) and went ahead and bought tickets for my wife and me.

Online tickets were $45 per person, and we also had to snag a parking pass for $15 per car. Not too shabby when you consider the awesomeness awaiting us inside.

The first fair took place in 1969 in Eugene, a city about two hours away from Portland, Oregon (in the northwest of the United States). It started as a fundraiser for a local school. Fast forward 52 years, and the fair has grown into something truly extraordinary.

With 22 stages, around 960 vendors selling everything from food to handmade crafts and clothes, the fair draws in about 45,000 people each year! Their website describes the event as an experience that nourishes the spirit, embraces authentic and artful living on Earth, and transforms culture in magical, joyous, and healthy ways. And let me tell you, that's spot-on!

We arrived on a Friday morning, knowing that some performances would kick off at 11 am. So, we left home relatively early (I'm Brazilian, so 10 am is early for me) and embarked on a two-hour drive. The parking lot was well organized, with volunteers guiding us to the right spots. People were incredibly friendly, waving and shouting "welcome!" to all the guests. It reminded me of my time at the Burning Man festival (I promise to write about that in a future post). The atmosphere was light-hearted and fun, with families and kids dressed in colorful outfits and costumes. It was like a blend of hippie culture, carnival, and a circus.

At the entrance, we realized that we were supposed to have received our tickets in the mail, which never happened. But no worries! A few minutes at the entrance desk, and they figured out a solution to get us our tickets. We were in!

We went through a bag check, and then a metal dragon statue greeted us with its open mouth. It felt like stepping into another world! The vendors' booths were made of wood, some even using tree branches. Some had a second floor where you could chill and relax, all nestled in the middle of the woods.

The path led us through tall, beautiful trees that made us feel like we were extras in a Lord of the Rings movie. People were dressed in medieval-inspired attire, rocking leather garments, colorful patterns, and cool hats. I wore my Burning Man outfit: thick brown kilts, a whale shirt, and a vibrant bandana. My wife had on a lovely red dress (which she later swapped for a festival green dress she found at one of the booths).

Let's talk about the food! It was down-to-earth and mouthwatering. There was a fantastic selection of different cuisines, and the desserts were made to order. We started with a tofu taco loaded with veggies, then indulged in lamb kebabs and a salad, and finished off with a variety of sweets, including a gluten-free chocolate donut (I'm not gluten-free, but I was curious), and a juice made of roses and other fruits. So darn good!

We were lucky enough to catch some of our friends performing, like Johnny Franco and his hilarious brother Dom, playing fun and comedic songs. Our friend Jetty mesmerized the crowd with her amazing accordion tunes, looping and enchanting us all.

There were so many talented musicians and performers that we had to keep an eye on the festival newspaper with the schedule for the three days. Since we were only there on Friday, we tried our best to soak up as much as we could. We laid down on the ground while a guy played the piano under the trees, and we even joined a bug drum circle, where I borrowed a drum and my beautiful wife danced among a group of chilled-out folks in the middle.

Everything was an experience we'll never forget! It's incredible how an event can lift your energy levels.

As we left, we noticed a little village outside the fairgrounds, with campers and food carts that only show up during the festival. For three days a year, that whole region comes alive with people from all over, creating a community, bringing their families, and having a blast - just like we did.

I'm already counting down the days until the next festival!

Tags - Oregon country fair 2023 blog, country fair, Oregon, Rodrigo Baena


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