New Eugene locations, same community spirit
On July 10, Eugene’s Saturday Market and the Oregon Country Fair will bring the iconic festivities to downtown for the first time since each event’s inception about 50 years ago.
“That’s never happened before in the history of our organizations,” artisan and Saturday Market organizer Diane McWhorter said. “And it’s because of COVID. It’s the silver lining of the cloud.”
The 52nd edition of the OCF, “Fair in the Clouds,” will stream free for the second consecutive year July 9-11. Live music, workshops and booths will air on KOCF 92.7, via crewman Chris Calef’s virtual “m8trix” and streaming from the Fair’s website, oregoncountryfair.org.
In addition, the Saturday Market will host its second Twilight Market of the year, screening live music from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at its Eighth Avenue and Oak Street location.
OCF employees and volunteers are working in tandem with community hubs such as the WOW Hall and the Alluvium to continue the nonprofit organization’s cultural magic through the fair and maintain its educational and philanthropic mission amid stormy financial and social times. In raising funds, operations manager Crystalyn Frank said OCF is also trying to support the organizations and businesses that will be impacted by a lack of live events in Veneta.
“We’ve really tried to make sure that in raising money for the fair, we are also supporting other organizations and businesses that have been severely impacted by COVID,” Frank said.
OCF is holding a merchant fundraiser for the local firms and individuals who usually would work the fair. The person who usually prints vehicle stickers will print OCF’s poster art. The screen printer that normally provides staff T-shirts is now printing OCF canvas merch. And fair volunteers are hard at work at the various 2021 OCF locations. When Frank visited the AlluviumEugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood for the first time, for example, she came away impressed with the progress they’ve made.
“I was just blown away by the good that they’re doing for our community,” Frank said. “We’re really grateful that, largely driven by volunteers, these people have been so willing to make sure that we don’t lose that connection to the community when so much else is so uncertain.”
Frank claims to only provide OCF resources in the face of need, but Alluvium pastor Eli Varedas credits the fair with a lot of facility improvements to be able to hold and stream OCF music concerts.
“They’ve put in at least 80 hours of work just at the Alluvium,” Varedas said. “They’ve been just a wonderful partner.”
This, Varedas said, includes painting the wall at the back of the stage and running audio and Ethernet cables and wiring throughout the building for sound and streaming.
“We’ll be here with doors open from 11 to 11, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Varedas said.
While the Alluvium prepares to stage bands, the WOW Hall will shoot and transmit traditional OCF workshops with events not open to the public. And while the online “m8trix” will provide an electronic touchstone for booth vendors, the Twilight Market will be a natural expansion of those efforts.
“The (OCF and Saturday Market) community has always been a lot of the same people, so it’s really a natural connection,” McWhorter said. “We have supported each other and in other ways in the past, and this is just really an extension of that crafting community.”
Though COVID-19-related health protocols prevented live OCF events this year in Veneta, McWhorter provided the bridge to breach this historical collaboration as a longtime vendor and volunteer at each event.
She began selling her handcrafted “Ephemera” at the Saturday Market in 1976. And as one of the artisans licensed to sell OCF-branded goods, McWhorter was chosen to design the “Fairs in the Clouds” poster and T-shirts. This is her first time designing the official OCF logo. And like everything else, this year was a little different. Without the usual months of design work and collaboration, McWhorter was able to put something together in just a few weeks after officials finally decided on a “Fair in the Clouds.”
“It doesn’t resemble the others. My idea was to give people something that they really want: the site,” McWhorter said. “They long for the experience of being on the land.”
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McWhorter visited the usually hectic grounds in April. Instead of fair family at work transforming an overgrown grounds, local flora ruled the day.
“The wildflower display out there is completely incredible,” McWhorter said. “It’s a gorgeous natural area that’s really been taken care of, and the succession of flowers is just mind-boggling.”
This presented a natural subject for the 2021 poster, a fantastic mass blooming surrounded by vine maples and alder trees. Though this profusion won’t be on offer this year, McWhorter hopes those colors and natural vibes will be on display downtown.
“We’re hoping people will still dress up in their outfits and come downtown to celebrate,” McWhorter said.
Though its setting may be different, the effort to create a luminescent Fair environment is still the same.
“I just love the way that this community has come together to make sure that we all make it through,” Frank said.
Correction:The location of the Saturday Market was incorrect in a previous version of this story. The market is at Eighth Avenue and Oak Street.