Well, that was a lot of fun. Despite the reservations I had about being in such a hippy place for the last few days, the Oregon Country Fair was splendid. I really enjoyed myself. It’s on the edge of a small town called Veneta, just outside Eugene. I arrived with Barbara and Kraig on Wednesday afternoon, and we had a walk around while we waited to find out where we should pitch the tent. The way the Fair seems to work is, those that volunteer to work there get to camp near the Fair site. Those people can bring a “significant other.” Generously, Kraig had me down as his significant other, meaning I could camp with them and have access to all the after hours stuff. You see, the fair is open to the paying public from around 10am ’til 7pm. After that, when all the acts on the eighteen stages have finished, there’s a “sweep” where a huge line of security folks go around all the paths of the Fair checking wristbands and passes so that the only people left “inside” are the volunteer workers, their significant others, performers, and vendors. I must admit, I feel a little bit sorry for those folks who get swept out, cos the after hours stuff was most enjoyable. But, not a worry for me, cos I had a laminated pass dangling around my neck. La la la!
Anyway, my point about waiting to pitch the tent is that those people who’ve been coming and volunteering for many years get to keep their camping spot again and again. Kraig and Barbara had a different spot this year, so we waited for the guy who’s spot we were gonna be sharing. He and his family arrived, and we set about putting up the tent in amongst the trees, out of the baking-hot sunshine. The downside of being out of the sunshine is that we were being eaten alive by mosquitos. After a few days there, my back is a real mess; those little fuckers biting me through my shirt every damn day.
Hot and sweaty and covered in bites after setting up the tent, I went for a shower. I’d been told by Kraig and Barbara that there were showers at the Fair. Showers that are open. As in, not shower stalls. As in, lots of naked people all showering next to each other. As in, good grief! I’m English and we don’t do that sort of thing (unless there’s a P.E. teacher watching). But, at that point, they were the only showers around, and they were free, and it was dark and, well, you’ve gotta try these things, huh? So we all walk in there, take our flip flops off, and gosh! there’s lots of people in the nude. Some taking a sauna, some showering, some brushing their teeth in front of some mirrors. Because it was free on Wednesday night (you had to pay during the rest of the Fair) it was busy. Maybe a hundred people there. I stood near a little pigeon hole-type thing and took off my baseball cap. Then my trousers. Then my shirt. Then my underpants. And, well, with all the other naked people around, it felt quite normal to also be naked. I queued in line, talking to a hairy hippy lady for a while, then got under a showerhead and washed my balls and arse in front of a load of strangers. Yes, Craig, you are now a hippy.
Thursday was still a setting-up day, but most of the food and drink stalls were open as the majority of the volunteers were already at the fair. And what good food there was. Every variety you could wish for: some wonderful egg-y/potato-y breakfast stuff, white garlic pizza, stir-fry noodles, and the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted in my life. Like the following two days, things went by in a bit of a blur. I walked around the Fair site a lot, saw plenty of strangely-dressed people, be they on stilts or their own feet. We met up with Walt and Jenny, the other couple I met in Belize, which was nice. I wandered around on my own, flitting between thinking it was all cool and lovely, and all a bunch of old hippy crap. Most of the arts and crafts on sale was the latter, but, y’know, that’s just not the sort of thing I like. On the whole though, the festival felt like a special place. It was nice. Especially the location, with paths window through woodland, and small stages dotted around the place. I walked the paths many times during my time there, but there was always something new to see. I even saw Sam Elliott wandering around. I’m pretty sure it was him, anyway, but, y’know, it was a hippy festival, so there could quite easily have been a Sam Elliott or Jerry Garcia look-alike contest and the rest of the Fair would’ve been deserted…
I’m trying my best to make this coherent, but it’s tough to sort it out in my head, especially as I’m up against the clock of battery life of my laptop in this library. So, I’ll just skip the giggly fun I had with glow sticks on Friday night, and get straight to the Saturday midnight show. This was what everyone I’d spoken to had said was the best part of the Fair. So, at 10pm, I sat down on the grass in front of the main stage and watched as a big band played “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” and were followed by many different acts, all performing for five or ten minutes. It was a wonderful night. Highlights, for me, were Artis the Spoonman, and Truckstop Honeymoon, and some guy with a big red balloon that I forget the name of (update: it was Godfrey Daniels. Thanks, Barbara). Also there was some Vegas-y magician called Jeff McBride and several old hippies singing old hippy songs.
I’m sure once I’ve pressed PUBLISH on the Blogger page, I’m gonna remember a lot of stuff, but for now, I gotta go. Battery close to dead. I’m down in Eureka, California being put up by Walt and Jenny. Nice little town with lots of pretty buildings and a ton of big redwood trees around. Tomorrow I’m heading down to San Francisco on a bus, leaving the nice countryside of the Pacific Northwest behind in favour of the big city. Right. Ta-ra for now.