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With the Eugene Celebration on hiatus, local music freaks are lamenting the loss of one of the southern Willamette Valley’s oldest and biggest music festivals. But Eugeneans are nothing if not resourceful, and upstart Festival of Eugene, Aug. 22-23 at Skinner Butte Park, was quickly born. The free event has a schedule of local music to satisfy even the most desperate music junkie jonesin’ for a live fix.

Music teacher Tim Walter swings his arms through the air with gusto, directing a throng of Madison Middle School band members as a jazzy rendition of “Oye Como Va” rings from their instruments. Walter’s junior high students are performing the song for eighth-grade procession, where family members and friends pack the bleachers of the gym.

National high school graduation rates are on the rise: A recent report from the U.S. Department of Education found that high school graduation rates in 2012 marked an unprecedented high of 80 percent. However, last year in Eugene, roughly only 64 percent of high school students graduated in four years in the 4J School District.

Spencer Butte Middle School’s garden program has grown from the seed of an idea to a self-sustaining garden with its own economic income. The garden, managed by students, sells its lettuce and other veggies to the Eugene School District, which then uses them in the cafeteria at the school.

Back when George Russell served as superintendent of 4J, he had to deal with racism on a regular basis. During a 4J Board of Education meeting about school closures, he says, a man who he assumes was a student’s dad “came up to the podium and said, ‘That’s what happens when you hire the n-word for affirmative action reasons.’”

Tonya Bunning became a single parent of two teenagers when her husband left. She remembers thinking, “Oh, crap. What do I do? Where do I go?” Bunning and her children went to live with her family in Arizona for a year and a half, but her severe asthma and unhappy children led her back to Oregon. The family of three sold all they could, fit the rest in their van and drove to Eugene.

Here in Oregon, Bunning says she was fired from Dari Mart after she developed a bone spur, despite having a doctor’s note in hand. She says the store told her it needed an employee with the use of both arms and, because of her injury, she only had use of one. They paid her for the extra half hour that it took to fire her and then she left. 

Ask a certain segment of Eugene’s population and they’ll say the Whiteaker Block Party, now in its eighth year, eclipsed the Eugene Celebration in relevance a long time ago. And with the celebration on hiatus until 2015 (and folks pulling the Festival of Eugene together), the Block Party now gets its chance to shine as the premier civic blowout of 2014. Every year, music is a central part of the event, and this year the Block Party boasts a powerhouse of local talent. 

What started as a small crowd partying in an empty parking lot in the Whiteaker among amps and beer kegs has grown, in eight short years, into a neighborhood-encompassing celebration of community and unique Eugene culture. Featuring a couple dozen local bands, food and craft vendors, an art and kid zone, carnival games, a dunk tank, beer gardens and even a bike valet, on Saturday, Aug. 2, from noon to 10 pm — it’s the Whiteaker Block Party (WBP).

During the Whiteaker Block Party, parking is usually a pain, with drivers scouring residential streets for a spot, sometimes giving up and parking illegally. This year, the Whiteaker Community Council is trying to alleviate the problem by opening up at least two gravel lots in the neighborhood for $5 per car. The WCC will use its share of the funds for a big long-term goal: a public parking lot in the Whit.

According to Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz, “Happiness is a warm puppy.” We agree. It’s also a warm kitty, a happy pig, a galloping horse or singing bird, to name a few of the many animals we have in our lives. Pet-lovers, we remind you, as always, to spay and neuter, and to check out Greenhill, First Avenue or any of the many caring rescues in Lane County when looking to add another non-human animal to your family. You can find rescues and available pets at PetFinder.com and find pets of the week here in EW’s pages. Don’t forget to have a collar and license on your beastie to make sure he finds the way back again, should he ever stray — because happiness for our domestic pets means a secure home, whatever form that may take, with food, care and love. 

Standing in Jud Turner’s kitchen, a gaggle of cats gobbling snacks at our feet, we hear a faint ting-a-ling coming from the basement.

“I think he just rang his bell,” Turner says, straining to hear. “He has a bell that he rings when he wants to go outside or wants to know what’s up.” Turner disappears down the stairs.

“What’s up, piggy?” I hear him say. He’s answered with some contented snorting.

While strolling around Eugene, if you look closely enough among the concert posters, job postings, graffiti and other ephemera tacked to poles, you may notice the heartache and hidden poetry of missing pet notices.

“You are unique. You want a unique pet. Everyone has German shepherd or Lab puppies for sale but that’s not You. You are amazing and You want a amazing pet. You want people to stop You wherever you go to ask about your animal.”

So reads an online advertisement claiming to sell wolfdog puppies (“GIANTS AVAILABLE!”), though most of the photos look like Siberian husky pups, and a few might have been mixed with a little something else.

Equestrian competitions are one of the few sports in which men and women compete on equal ground. Rider Karianne Boyce-Lockhart has been beating men and women alike, jumping her horses Hopscotch and Ferro DC over huge grand prix fences around the Northwest, California and Canada. A Eugene native, she won two grand prix competitions in a row in July and she came in sixth at a World Cup qualifier in June, jumping some fences over 5 feet tall. At a little more than 5 feet herself, she says when she’s on foot her eyes are level with some of the fences she rides her horses over.

After spending 30 stressful years working as a computer technician, Steve Walker found himself in his early sixties and looking for a career change that would facilitate both his retirement and his golfing hobby. Walker chose dog walking. 

A year and a half later and Walker’s “Top Dog” offers dog walking, pet sitting, vacation visits, pet transportation and errand running. The business has grown to the point that he occasionally turns down jobs to retain his partial retirement. 

In the 1950s and ’60s the new faster freeways of the Interstate Highway System could make or break the businesses of the towns they went through or bypassed. Oregon towns with freeway exits off I-5 often expanded, thanks to the advantages of being close to shipping and travel, while businesses in towns far from the new roads withered. Once upon a time, the same was true for towns along railroad tracks. 

Former Lane County commissioner Cindy Wood-Weeldreyer says she knew that history of connectivity when she first became aware of what many in the ’90s liked to call the “information superhighway,” and she kept it in mind when she began working to bring fiber-optic cable to the area. “You follow the blueprint of history when you see opportunities coming down the road,” Weeldreyer says.

I was a virgin at the 2013 Oregon Country Fair. It felt good to be a virgin, and my cherry status seemed to please a lot of fairgoers as well. I received innumerable high-fives, endless sweaty hugs and was told repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms, that being a Fair virgin was a blessing and a miracle on a par with earthly nirvana or winning the lottery. This proved true, sort of.

As a child, Yona Appletree spent his summers at the Oregon Country Fair, helping his mother sell tie-dyed clothes — and he continued to do so as he matured, manning his mother’s booth until 2010. Appletree grew up at the Fair, watching it slowly change. Now, as a computer programmer specializing in interactive art, he wants to help the OCF evolve.

Since 1969, the Oregon Country Fair has provided attendees a temporary, zany escape from reality. It has changed over the decades, but its original values and pastimes are still key to the experience. One of those constants — unbeknownst to most — is the Rich family, and for them, the Fair is not an escape from reality, but an integral part of it.

Some Oregon Country Fair mischief is part of innocent tradition, some practices are heavily frowned upon and others warrant police intervention.

Unwelcomed activity at the Fair is deterred conventionally, with law enforcement, and creatively, with a volunteer security team numbering in the hundreds.

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. 

Just when the pollen haze clears out and right before the smoke from Central Oregon forest fires rolls in, the southern Willamette Valley is inundated with a different kind of summer haze: a fleet of Vanagons, Subarus and buses (VW and LTD) converging just west of Eugene in Veneta for the annual Oregon Country Fair.

Nothing says ’Merica like star-spangled hot pants. Allison Ditson flips through a stack of her handmade garter shorts and swimwear while Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” fills her warm attic studio. Fabric is draped over every nook and cranny — in stars and stripes, neons and florals, glittering golds and black mesh — making the cozy space look like the shared dressing room of Wonder Woman, Betty Grable and Katy Perry.

The godfather of glass pipes works in a bus down by the Willamette River — make that a 1940s bus and a semi trailer outfitted with several workstations. Inside the bus, torch blazing, Bob Snodgrass focuses on a golden glass mushroom inside a pendant. “I’m been working more than 20 years trying to figure out how to do the gills,” Snodgrass says, pushing and pulling rods of molten glass over the flame. “And I just got it together.” Tubes of colored glass poke out like stalagmites from every surface of the bus. Overhead, silver vents are covered with stickers stating, “I miss Jerry” and “Support Local Glassblowers.” One bumper sticker says “Thank Bob for your Snoddy.”