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Lead Stories

When you give to the Fair, the Fair gives back. For starters: The first Oregon Country Fair in 1969 was a fundraiser for the Eugene Alternative School. From its very beginning, the Fair has reached out to the Fern Ridge and Veneta areas, as well as the larger community of Lane County. And with its programs devoted to philanthropy, donating a combined total of about $50,000 every year, OCF and its impact extend beyond the famed three days of summer celebration.

Lawrence Taylor may be in his 30th year cleaning toilets at the Oregon Country Fair, but there is more to his story than sanitation. This criminal defender once held demonstrations with President Barack Obama at Harvard Law and, if that wasn’t enough, drove His Holiness the Dalai Lama around Portland during his recent visit.

Amid all the fervor and hoopla surrounding Fair, it’s easy to forget the event is a venerable and respected (hippie-centric) music fest; this year the entertainment lineup for the 44th Annual OCF is full of some pleasant surprises, old friends and just enough ’60s revivalism to please the old-time Fair faithful.

For many years at the main stage area of the Oregon Country Fair, a sign that says “Dick Stewart Memorial Kiosk” has hung above a recycling stand. It’s a nice tribute, but a bit misleading — Dick Stewart is alive and well.

Even in Utopia, shit happens. Take, for instance, the Oregon Country Fair, that vaunted Northwest gathering of boho spirits and fandango oglers, where the freak flag is flown as a testament to some netherworld normalcy. Even here, at peace-loving OCF, where the ’60s spirit of freedom, expression and communal OK-ness reigns in benevolent wooded anarchy, it might happen that you step on a bumblebee, sprain an ankle or suffer some kind of respiratory distress. It’s all fun and games until you forget your insulin.

Whether you treat snack time as a treasure hunt or plan out your prospective meals months in advance, the Oregon Country Fair offers something for every taste, with a cross section of world cuisine from Afghan fare to Peruvian cuisine, Greek standbys and everything in between. With 66 food booths plus a handful of strolling vendors, OCF boasts myriad options for fairgoers who work up an appetite.

Darcy DuRuz created Girl Circus in 2001, an all-age, almost all-female circus that performs every year at the Oregon Country Fair. Featuring performers in a variety of abilities from ballet to aerial silk, Girl Circus offers high-quality family entertainment.

Shanna Trumbly was lying on the sand with her eyes closed, the water lapping at her legs. She could hear her girlfriends splashing and laughing in the “sweet little lake” in southern Oregon where they had been coming every summer as teenagers. The soft patter of footsteps in the sand caught her attention and she opened her eyes, expecting to see one of the girls. The footsteps, however, belonged to a tiny fawn. The fawn tottered right up to Trumbly. She looked out at the water where her friends had gone silent as they watched the scene unfold: The young deer pushed its little snout into her face, gently circling it with its black nose, and then tottered away.

“The deer has always been my animal,” Trumbly explains, remembering the scene at the shore. “It was such a magical experience.” 

Rahul Choudhary and his work sound like the basis for a Bollywood meets Erin Brockovich film — a tall, dark and handsome Indian attorney fights dirty coal, polluting industries and problematic dams while saving lions and elephants. Environmental protection in India may be undergoing a sea change, and Choudhary and fellow attorneys at the Legal Initiative for Forest & Environment (LIFE), based in New Delhi, are leading the charge. The attorneys of LIFE are successfully arguing cases in front of India’s Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal (NGT) that are saving endangered animals, giving a voice to communities and protecting people, land and water from industries that could harm them. Choudhary recently came to Oregon to meet with the staff of the Eugene offices of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) and tour Lane County’s dumps, wetlands and enviro initiatives.

Walking through downtown, it’s easy to miss Eugene’s wayward waterway, hidden in culverts and secreted away behind swathes of pavement and sidewalk. Though Amazon Creek shares its name with a mighty South American river, the comparisons stop there. It once provided a connective pathway for fish and other wildlife traveling from its headwaters near Spencer Butte to the Long Tom River, which further connects to the Willamette River and drains all the way to the Pacific Ocean. But after heavy restructuring in the 1940s and ’50s to mitigate stormwater flooding, Amazon Creek took on an entirely different persona. 

Over the decades, the creek has succumbed to the pressures of its urban lifestyle. Stormwater drains directly into this tributary of the Willamette, carrying with it pesticides, heavy metals from parking lots and motor oil from leaky cars. Algae grows in the stagnant waters near South Eugene High School, forming a thick layer of slime during the summer, and the canals that redirect Amazon Creek’s flow seem more like stagnant moats than a corridor in a healthy ecosystem. 

The U.S. is approaching a defining moment of change in transportation, and Eugene is no exception. For the first decade of the last six, the average American is beginning to cut vehicle miles traveled, and the demand for a shorter commute is on the rise with younger generations. Biking is on the rise nationwide. In the last eight years, Oregon’s gas and diesel tax revenue has dropped by about 1 percent, while the amount coming from Eugene has dropped by 15 percent. Changes are afoot.

Blossoms fly loose in humid draughts, skitter across sidewalks and smile up at the sun, and all the while the temperature rises. Listen closely; can’t you hear it? The sprinkler hiss and lawnmower drone, the river goading you gently to its banks to crack that first summer ale and float away? Whether you’ve scrimped and saved for a five-day wine tour, polished your hot rod for that car show or jogged through the cold in preparation for one special race, the time for fun is finally nigh. Eugene, meet summer 2013; we’re sure it’s bound to be the best one yet.

Shannon Finnell

 et al.

Every summer, the Whiteaker Block Party (pictured, 8/3) seems to grow by another block. Check out our 8/1 issue for a rundown of the music, food, art and more that heat up the Whit in the dog days of summer. And don’t forget the Oregon Country Fair (7/12-7/14) and Eugene Celebration (8/23-8/25) for more awesome local culture.

Looking for ideas for what to do this summer? Look no further.

With long summer days come equally rewarding mild evenings. So what better way is there to enjoy those mild nights than to hang up a white sheet, pick up a projector and pop open a bottle of wine with friends and enjoy a movie in the comfort of your yard?

The first thing we noticed was the quiet. Even the wind seemed muted as it whipped through the tall grass. Five friends had traveled 340 miles east from Eugene to find the ghost town of Whitney, and now we stood at a dirt crossroad, reading a sign with a horse-drawn carriage painted next to a steam engine. “Rails of the Sumpter Valley R. R. reached Whitney Valley June 1, 1901,” we read, squinting in the hot July sun. “At one time 150 people called Whitney their home. When the railway was abandoned in 1947, the town closed down.” 

Outside is the place to be when summer weather is officially here to stay, and many of the options to comfortably enjoy the heat in Eugene involve water. Take a dip in swimming holes in the area, or travel to a water park and enjoy all it has to offer. Eugene and its surrounding areas have it covered, with refreshing activities that cater to both adults and children. 

Climate experts insist we’d better reduce carbon emissions by 6 percent a year if we hope for a livable planet, but politicians continue to greenlight coal mining, fracking, oil drilling and a Keystone pipeline expansion that former NASA climatologist James Hansen says means “game over” for the atmosphere. 

 Most of my friends, if they discuss the politics of global warming at all, shake their heads in disgust, then in despair and, finally, with a statement of resignation along the lines of, “We are so screwed.”

But Kathleen Dean Moore says we don’t get to sit this one out. 

Some might say that running is Eugene’s claim to fame, but the art of running while kicking a soccer ball has legions of fans in this town. Known as the world’s game, the sport has taken center stage in the states, particularly in the Northwest. It has grown so big in Eugene that some of Italy’s best female players have hopped on a plane to join in on the fun, while more and more of the city’s youth are getting into the game. And, if that isn’t enough, the possibility of Civic Stadium turning into a soccer field only adds to the buzz.

Convening in the parking lot of an unspecified hardware store, passing around “vessels” filled with delicious beer and cracking sexually explicit jokes at any given moment, the Eugene Hash House Harriers will really throw you for a loop if you’re unfamiliar with the tradition (or if you can’t take a joke). The “hounds” do their best to follow the madcap path laid by the “hare,” and once they reach the end, it’s time for more fraternizing. 

A kickball outfielder hits the turf at Tugman Park in South Eugene. Play is halted while she’s carried to the sideline. Is it a twisted ankle — or worse? “Need some ice?” teammates ask. “Get her a beer — STAT!” responds a teammate helping her from the field. She ices down the calf cramp with a cold one, cracks it open and is soon sitting with her friends, laughing in the shade.

It is 4:54 pm along a dusty trail in the high desert of Eastern Oregon. I am out of breath, heaving my weight against a wooden post trying to finesse a centimeter of slack in the latch that is holding together a large, awkward barbed wire fence. There is some urgency to my efforts because two humans and three horses are waiting to access the trail on the other side of the fence. We have been riding for 43 miles and we have seven more to go. Welcome to endurance horse riding.

“Golf is a good walk spoiled,” Mark Twain once said. In that vein, I would add that disc golf is a good walk enhanced. On several Sundays this spring, my partner and I have filled a bag with the candy-colored rubbery discs — drivers, putters, mid-rangers — and headed down to Alton Baker Park’s new course. After purchasing a $3 pass at the pro shop, we spend the next two hours on a leisurely amble through the course’s 18 holes, following arrows that point across sunlit fields and deep into cool, shady groves, and, of course, stopping every couple dozen or a hundred yards to pick up a disc and line-up a shot. We were not alone; dozens of groups spread out throughout the park sailing discs into the chain-link nets.

It was bound to happen: A Eugene spoof of the zeitgeisty show Portlandia, called, of course, Eugenia. The viral video lays down the same beat-heavy opening music as its Portland inspiration with “Eugenia” spelled out in an identical gritty typeface in front of a city view of Spencer Butte, followed by downtown shots of the federal building, Voodoo Doughnuts, the bus station, Cowfish and finally City Hall.

Enter roller derby skaters Erin (Bullet) and James Brains and Mayor Kitty Piercy. Another parallel to the original TV show: Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen frequently call on Portland’s mayor for favors or support. In Eugenia, the Brains pay a visit to Piercy’s office to inform her about The Big O, the city’s second annual international roller derby tournament.