OCF'S SPOKEN WORD LINEUP OFFERS ENTERTAINING INSIGHT.
Known for years as a three-day reunion of friends, family and fun, the Oregon Country Fair has recently taken a turn for the more serious, focusing much of the active energy of its participants into a dynamic discussion of world events and issues. This year's "Spoken Word" line up includes activists, musicians, poets and storytellers offering up their unique vision of our world. From silly to sublime, the featured speakers are bent on raising the awareness of their listeners, encouraging audiences to turn all that good-vibe energy into good works, and of course, it's all good fun. –Aria Seligmann
Alan Siporin was a civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activist in the '60s and continues walking his talk as an award-winning author and journalist. From 1983 to '93, Siporin was NPR's primary freelance reporter for Oregon and his commentaries aired on "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered." He has written for the New York Times, Northwest Magazine and Eugene Weekly. His first novel, Fire's Edge, was selected for Readin' in the Rain 2003. Siporin produces and hosts "Critical Mass," a listener call-in program on KLCC.
Anne Feeney uses music to carry the message of solidarity. A former attorney, Feeney exemplifies the spirit of the new/old guerilla minstrels working to build community, empower the people, and expose the naked imperialist. Utah Philips and Peter Yarrow have declared Anne "the most important labor singer in America." Feeney performs with Chris Chandler in the Flying Poetry Circus.
Chris Chandler is a poet from Stone Mountain, Georgia. His work is disturbing, hilarious and provocative.
Dan Merkle is a Seattle-based attorney currently working on overhauling the criminal justice system, strengthening progressive and independent media and communications systems. He advises non-profits and community-based projects and is co-founder of the Center for Social Justice and the Independent Media Center.
Faith Petric was born in 1915 in a log cabin in Northern Idaho to an itinerant musical Methodist preacher. Petric has kept the faith as a touring folksinger, protesting against injustice and appearing at folk festivals and political gatherings around the world.
Gina Salá is a vocalist, instructor, workshop facilitator, composer and co-director of Sound Healers of Washington. With a repertoire of 18 languages, Sala has shared songs on stages, living rooms and huts throughout the world. She works with at-risk youth and leads workshops for adults. She was featured on the documentary Sing: A Healing Community Celebration, and leads monthly kirtans (participatory, multi-faith chanting evenings).
Hilary Goldberg toured with Ani DiFranco as a documentary filmmaker in collaboration on the feature Render. Following the events of Sept. 11th, Goldberg found she had plenty to say. She started hitting open mics and coffee houses and has started a new documentary film chronicling independent artists and the current state of life in America.
Holly Near's career began with film, television, Broadway and eventually regional theaters, where she wrote and performed. In 1972, she was most likely the first woman in the U.S. to go "independent" when she founded Redwood Records, which became a major force in alternative music for almost two decades. Near's most recent recording is Edge.
Ina May Gaskin, CPM, is founder and director of The Farm Midwifery Center on The Farm in Tennessee, editor of The Birth Gazette and author of Spiritual Midwifery (into its fourth edition), Babies, Breastfeeding and Bonding, and her newest work Ina May's Guide to Child Birth. One of the most well known midwives in the world, her contribution to the culture of childbirth in the U.S. has been enormous.
Jim Page has 17 full-length recordings and still likes being a street musician — in addition to his concert hall gigs. His music is known for mixing humor, irony and lyrical brilliance to expose the outrages and absurdities of our times. The prolific performer will offer "unsung songs and attempted poetics" to fairgoers.
Dr. Joel & Michelle Levey are founders of Seattle-based InnerWork Technologies, Inc., which develops stress-management and psycho-physiological therapy programs. They have studied with numerous spiritual leaders. Some of their books include: Living In Balance: A Dynamic Approach for Creating Harmony & Wholeness in a Chaotic World and Wisdom at Work; Simple Meditation & Relaxation.
Joules Graves inspires people to sing and dance together, to find their unique voice and to unite in song and prayer. She'll be singing for the celebration of Life and the unified prayer for Peace.
Karen Mahon is the Executive Director of the Hollyhock Leadership Institute, which offers training and strategic support for those working for environmental and social change. She is the former managing director of Green Peace Canada, and led the successful action to protect the last 20 percent of intact ancient rain forest on Canada's west coast.
Kevin Danaher is co-founder and education director of Global Exchange and author of many books including: Democratizing the Global Economy: The Battle Against the World Bank and the IMF; Globalize This!: The Battle Against the World Trade Organization; and Corporations are Gonna Get Your Momma: Globilization and the Downsizing of the American Dream.
Kipchoge Spencer is a songwriter, musician, poet, and social entrepreneur with a degree from Stanford University in environmental economics, civil engineering and resource efficiency. Kipchoge hit the scene recently with a poem that he has performed for radio, TV and thousands live at rallies and festivals titled How Much, the subject of a forthcoming film intended to reach deeper into the hearts of those that have, and thus, have a choice.
Laura "Piece" Kelley began competing for the Seattle Poetry Slam Team in 2000, earned her way to the Nationals two years in a row and helped bring her team to 3rd place. A poet, vocalist, and activist, Kelly performs weekly with the Seattle-based ensemble, Jumbalaya and is the featured host and lead vocalist in their Experience Music Project.
Merran Smith, Director of the BC Coastal Program, ForestEthics was involved in the historic Phase 1 decision to start what could be the largest conservation agreement in North America, protecting the largest area of intact rainforest on British Columbia's coast. She has also produced award-winning documentary videos on environmental, social justice and human rights issues in Central America and was instrumental in starting the GAIA Project, a partnership between the Salvadoran Centre for Appropriate Technology and the Sierra Club, as well as Project Accompaniment, a human rights observer project with the returning Guatemalan refugees.
Rachel Foxman began telling stories professionally in 1979 and joined the OCF in 1983, where she was a storyteller on the Vaudeville stage for 17 years. This year she performs "In Your Dreams," a collection of world folktales.
Ronnie Gilbert was a member of the 1950s "Weavers," a group that sold millions of records until it was cut short by the infamous blacklisting within the entertainment industry during the McCarthy Era. She has worked on and off Broadway and is a musical playwright, teacher, activist, and author. For 13 years, Gilbert has participated in the international Women In Black organization in challenging destructive US foreign policy.
Sarah Ruth van Gelder is co-founder of the Positives Futures Network and Executive Editor of YES! Magazine.
Serigo Lub is the designer of Friendly Favors network, an online exchange directory active in 38 countries.
Skye Rios,12, and Maya Rios,15, are members of Corazon a Corazon, a group of 20 young violinists who raised $20,000 for a Bolivian orphanage while traveling the U.S. and Bolivia playing classical and Latin music.
Stephen Gaskin is the founder of The Farm, one of the largest counterculture communities in the world, and Plenty International, which has helped to rebuild 1,200 homes and 27 kilometers of water pipe in Guatemala, clinics in Lesotho and southern Mexico and other projects across four continents.
Venerable Geshe Kalsang Damdul escaped from Tibet and continued his formal studies in India. He has received the highest degree in Gelukpa tradition and many other empowerments including his Bhikhkhu ordination from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Geshe la has been the Spiritual Advisor to the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association.
The Eugene Slam Team, headed to Chicago in August to compete in the National Poetry Slam, consists of four Eugene poets: Treysi, Jahan Khalighi, Martha Grover and Nathan Langston. These guys are hot!
A couple of lifetimes ago, I found myself in a willow bush, a feast for mosquitoes, cramped from squatting for three hours, waiting for the time of my life. That was the first and last time I ever snuck into the Oregon Country Fair.
The fair feels to me like a celebration out of another time. It's like The Great Gadsby's week-long parties, Elizabethan hunting trips, Native American potlatches, parties that bring a group of people together for days to celebrate, whatever the occasion. There aren't many rituals these days that justify a three-day party, and that's part of what makes the fair so special. No one can afford to host one, not everyone can schedule one in.
I've been a Fair child, off and on, since I was 5 years old. The family would pile into the van and camp out with friends. My memories are dim: I remember heat and swimming, naked men dancing with fire, jugglers and bubble blowers. I remember a great time, most of it happening at night when the consumer-driven crowds had gone home. So when I came to Eugene for college, the fair was again the thing, and I wanted to stay all night.
However, now there was no parent to pay, and no camping passes to be had anyway. The seemingly logical plan was to sneak in. Legends of great break-ins abounded. Friends told of a 14-year-old girl who could make totally real-looking wrist bands out of Fimo modeling clay. One guy claimed to have hidden in a tree, another recommended hiding in the sleeping bags in a camper's tent. That sounded dangerous, or stuffy, so my friend and I opted for the water method.
Sneaking into the overnight fair is made difficult by many things. The more people who stay overnight, the more security is needed. If too many people stayed, all kinds of horrible things would be necessary, like street lights. So the fair community has tried hard to keep people not related to the business of the fair out. For some, that has created a mighty tasty looking forbidden fruit.
The sweep patrol is the first line of defense. A group of people hold hands and walk the entire fairgrounds, gently ushering out people who don't have wrist-bands showing that they belong. The ones shuffled out get put on the bus back to Eugene, without the benefit of the exclusive night-time celebrations and free admission the following day.
The water method we tried would avoid the human chain, but had a couple drawbacks we hadn't anticipated. (Not that we really were anticipating types!) The way it worked was, when we heard the sweeps were coming through, we found a bank with a gentle slope, took off our pants and waded, waist deep in very icky water, to the brush on the other side. There we crouched, with nothing to read or do, getting eaten by bloodthirsty insects, unable to speak above a whisper, for three full hours. Canoes paddled up and down the waterway, looking for us. Yellow Jackets in a papery hive in a nearby Alder tree buzzed menacingly, also looking for us. We were fugitives.
Finally night fell, and we climbed the bank back to fair territory. It was chilly that year, at 9:30 pm anyway, and we were wet and underdressed. The flush of victory from eluding the patrols was brief. The highlight of the evening had to be the Pad Thai we convinced Bangkok Grill to fix up for us: Nothing ever tasted better.
We'd forgotten to pack any food, or extra clothes or flashlights or bedding for that matter. We spent hours searching the dark for other friends who may have made it through the sweep, and found a few. At midnight we made it to the show at the mainstage, where we sat way in the back of a surprisingly large group of people, and totally failed to see any naked fire dancers. I fell asleep.
By 2 am the rocks in the grass and the cold had me wide awake. We stumbled over to the saunas, and spent the rest of the night trying to stay warm. I heard beautiful music: a flutist playing in the dark, acoustic guitars around a campfire and chanting, but there was no rest anywhere. By the time the fair finally opened the next morning, and the stream of LTD buses began their to and fro, I was more than ready to go home, take a hot shower, slip into something clean and sleep that fair away. I go in the daytime now, and I still bear scars from those ferocious mosquitoes.
HEAD TO TOE HIPPIE
Oregon Country Fair is here once again and that means it's time, of course, to plan your festival attire.
For advice on how to be best dressed at OCF, you've come to the right place. De Rigeur would suggest a total unmakeover; from your shiny hair and matte skin to your pale legs and stocking-clad feet.
Let's start at the top. For the most mod in Country Fair hairdos you'll need more of a head start than this, but I've heard the best dreads begin with pieces of an old wool sweater, a home perm kit, and a massive amount of patience.
For the face, I recommend SPF 30+. Kiva has the whole ALBA Botanical sunscreen line. On top of that it should be all glitter-licious. Check out Backstage Danceweare for the shiny stuff. They'll have you so sparkly you'd look like a disco ball if you hung from the rafters by your heels. But wait, that's a different decade. Back to the fair.
For women, I suggest body paint and glitter swirled in various mystical patterns across the torso. If clothing up top is preferred, leave your bras at home and sport one of the backless corduroy and floral print patchwork tops from Sweet Potato Pie. For men wishing to remain clothed, tie-dyed shirts are the trippiest things around. RIT dye, some rubber bands and some ingenuity can spice up even the most uninteresting apparel. Circle of Hands or Sweet Potato Pie has shirts for those not wishing to also sport tie-dyed hands.
Below the waist, I recommend hemp or cotton shorts in darker neutral colors with plenty of pockets. Grass, dust and various spilled food items tend to make lighter-toned pants and jeans look particularly unfestive. The more pockets, the more freedom you'll have from toting a bag stuffed with sunscreen, water, sunglasses, and of course, your wallet.
For me, OCF is all about the accessories you also carry in. Flying Clipper has the best hackysacks and devilsticks. Greater Goods has great drums and hats at pretty decent prices. If you need a bit more adornment, Little Toad Designs makes the best masks, capes, hats, and headpieces in the most fanciful designs for the whole family.
Make sure to drink plenty of water. Fairy days are often HOT. Nalgene water bottles in a variety of sizes and colors are available at McKenzie Outfitters for excellent prices.
The OCF has always been ecologically centered, and this year is no exception. It was recently awarded first place in recycling by the Association of Oregon Recyclers and this year's theme is "Waste Free by 2003!"
Last year, the fair reduced the amount of waste brought to the landfill by 6.7 tons. This year, that trend continues. Food vendors have been encouraged to provide compostable plates and utensils, in addition to using recyclable materials.
Also, in collaboration with Eugene BioSource, the OCF has arranged to power all of its diesel equipment with 100 percent Biodiesel, a renewable fuel derived from vegetable oil that burns cleaner than petroleum diesel. In addition, the fair urges all participants to hop on the bus out to Veneta. The bus is free; your OCF ticket is your pass. —AS