Just after the Bach Festival  in mid-July, the Oregon Country Fair takes place as Eugene ’s second major cultural event of the summer. If you didn’t realize that there was still a thriving counterculture, buy a ticket online or at a Safeway store, put on your man-kilt, and catch a bus at the Valley River Mall for the fairgrounds along with the crowds of tie-dyed, fringed, and love-beaded fair-goers.
Entering the fair, you wander through a kaleidoscope of natural fabrics, graceful ceramics, stained glass, rainbow candles, and thousands of other variously sculpted wares. Machine-manufactured items are simply unavailable. Every aspect of the fair — its 350-plus booths and its participants — is, in a sense, art.
What? Two hours gone by already? You need a cup of espresso and a piece of torte if you’re going to make it through this day. Or perhaps you want a Ritta’s burrito bulging with avocado, salsa, and sprouts. The choices are mouthwatering: Get fried rice, sushi, blazing salads, or even a tofu-less tofu burger (with 100 percent ground beef), and more.
Overwhelmed by the constant parade of costumed stilt walkers, strolling musicians, winged “country fairies,” children in face paint, bare-breasted men and women, and other ambient wonders? Not far from any burnout point is a stage.
Shady Grove is a quiet venue for acoustic folk, classical, New Age, and other music. The Daredevil, W. C. Fields, and Energy Park stages host contemporary New Vaudeville stars and other rollicking performers. See the Royale Famille du Canniveaux debut a unique musical comedy. Marvel as the Reduced Shakespeare Company performs Romeo and Juliet backward in one minute flat. Shake your head and mutter as Up For Grabs juggles circular-saw blades and/or small children.
But wait, there’s more. Try The Circus with its parade, orchestra, and veteran virtuosos. Ogle snake charmers and belly dancers at the Gypsy Stage. Or dance to the national and international stars of rock and roll, reggae, and alternative music on the Main Stage.
If it’s starting to sound less like a hippie fair and more like a well-catered and established art convention, don’t worry; there’s always a sojourn into geo-socio-political-eco-consciousness at Community Village. Several booths here and in Energy Park teach and demonstrate the latest in new and matured ’60s activism and environmental awareness.
Tired already? So are we, but there’s a whole year to rest up and reminisce before the next Oregon Country Fair.
This annual fantasyland is staged among the trees east of Noti on Route 126. Take the free shuttle from Eugene ’s Valley River Mall directly to the wooded fair site near the Long Tom River, 13 miles from Eugene. Bus service usually begins at about 10:30 a.m., with the last departure from the fair site at 7 p.m. Due to the popularity of this event, which attracts more than 50,000 attendees, mandatory advance ticket purchase prior to your arrival on-site has been instituted for those taking mass transit. Car access to the fair is open 10 a.m.–6 p.m., but on-site parking is limited. Parking costs $7 at the gate, a couple of bucks less when reserved in advance.
For more information, contact the Oregon Country Fair (541/343-4298, www.oregoncountryfair.org ). Admission is $18–26 (kids 10 and under free, 65 and over get a $5 discount). Purchase tickets in advance through Tickets West (800/992-8499, http://ticketswest.rdln.com ). Dogs, drugs, glass containers, and video recorders are prohibited.