A party-fied Whiteaker
by Jeremy Ohmes
When out-of-towners visit me and they ask to see the real Eugene, I instinctively take them to Whiteaker. Not because the neighborhood is any more eye-catching than South Eugene or River Road or downtown, but because Whiteaker seems to encapsulate everything that makes Eugene Eugene. It’s a microcosm of the city’s collective creativity, sustainability and progressive consciousness, a motley landscape that mingles the old and the new and seems at once both static and constantly changing. Whiteaker is quintessential Eugene, and those who live there speak about their neighborhood with tons of pride. Just ask Girin Guha, a member of the Whiteaker Cocktail Society and one of the organizers of the annual Whiteaker Block Party. “Other neighborhoods in Eugene are more of a location, “ says Guha, “but Whiteaker is a state of being.”
To celebrate this “state of being,” Guha and other members of the Whiteaker Cocktail Society (a neighborhood drinking club with the motto “Drunks with Stickers”) organized the Whiteaker Block Party last year after taking stock of their partying ways. Laughing, Guha says, “I guess the impetus was too many parties that just coalesced into one block party.” That one-block neighborhood soiree saw about 2,000 people taking part in the festivities last August, and it possessed an organized spontaneity and “a critical mass of party energy,” as Guha likes to call it, that makes Whiteaker what it is. “Last year a DJ ran home and grabbed his turntables and started DJing on the street,” Guha recalls. “And that’s the sort of thing we want to encourage this year: people dressing up and bringing their art into the neighborhood.”
Based on the success of last year’s shindig and the idea that if you build it, people will come, Guha and company are expecting an even bigger turnout (at least 3,000 people) this year. In preparation, this year’s party expands to cover one more block. On four stages set up in front yards — “so the music is more accessible” — more than 30 musicians and bands, including Yeltsin, Scrambled Ape, Tom Heinl, Medium Troy and Disco Organica, will provide the soundtrack to the neighborhood rave-up. The family-friendly event also includes a Kidzone featuring magicians, face painting and puppet shows. Speakers such as Whiteaker resident and Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and other local representatives will discuss community involvement and how to make your neighborhood a better place.
As far as giving back to the community, local nonprofits will host information sessions and volunteer sign-ups, and there will be an art auction benefiting the Buckley House, a Whiteaker-based substance abuse treatment center. Also, FOOD for Lane County will be holding a food drive; each entrance will have food donation boxes and you’re encouraged to bring nonperishable foods to help feed Lane County’s hungry.
The whole event is underwritten by Ninkasi Brewery and Territorial Vineyards, so the drinks will be a’flowin’, too. “Whiteaker is Eugene’s Eugene,” says Guha. So come out and show off your Eugene pride — no matter what neighborhood you’re from.
Whiteaker Block Party. 1 pm to 10 pm, Saturday, Aug. 9. 3rd Avenue between Van Buren and Adams. FREE. All ages. (After the Block Party, catch Podunk and The London Flush at Wandering Goat at 10 pm. This show is 21+.)