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Rejuvenate the Land

How OCF overcame this year’s swathe of obstacles
Photo by Tony Clementi
Photo by Tony Clementi

Crashing branches, trees snapped in half, debris-littered roads — the ice storm that swept across Lane County in February left the streets a twiggy mess that took weeks, even months, to address.

The Oregon Country Fair site in Veneta bore its share of the damage, with the back half of the main camp kitchen totaled and three booths taken out by trees. Add to that a flood and a fire that damaged OCF’s iconic dragon-shaped entryway, and the Fair faced a much bigger challenge than usual when shaping up the grounds for July.

OCF’s spirit is unfailingly tenacious, and in true form, the Fair community came together to tackle the onset of calamities that struck the site.

“It was pretty amazing the amount of devastation we saw out there,” says Charlie Ruff, general manager for OCF. “There were complete trees that had fallen down, lots of big overhead branches that had come down as well, and several areas where we put in some new emergency response trails in November that were completely covered.”

The site flooded after the freeze, so the Fair community couldn’t even access the area until the last week of February. Ruff says reconstruction work started in March, and the first step was simply assessing the damage and coming up with a plan of repair.

“We had to keep our site closed except for working crews, and that was hard for the Fair community, who like having access to the land. It’s a place of physical and spiritual rejuvenation,” Ruff says.

Over the months, Ruff and hundreds of volunteers helped clear out branches and debris from the site, and as of presstime, they’re still in the process of doing that in some of the back camping areas. Starting in March, volunteer work parties slowly and steadily unburied the land.

Despite the adversity, OCF managed to expand this year, with additions such as The Bubble, which features flow arts like the acrobatics-yoga hybrid acroyoga and a toy box filled with hula hoops, juggling clubs, staves and more. Also new is an area devoted to stewardship at the Fair, including displays and discussions on how the Fair can maintain the land and change the world.

As the Fair draws near, Ruff says, he is continually blown away by the OCF community and its ability to handle roadblocks. “There is no doubt in my mind that the collective labor we went through to recover from this is going to make the fruit of the peach that much sweeter when we’re out enjoying the Fair,” he says. “You can already taste it in the air.”