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Enjoy Yourself, But Mostly Enjoy Each Other

July 20th, 2019 by dk

The Oregon County Fair did something unusual last month. They offered what amounted to a preview of their annual event, which kicks off today for the 50th time. It’s the golden anniversary for the silver-haired group who saw its beginnings.

The Fair has been designated an official Oregon Heritage Tradition, which struck some as odd. Who thinks of the Oregon Country Fair as traditional in any way? Stalwart volunteer Mary Doyon put it best, “First, they wanted us to go away. Now they won’t let us leave.”

Former Eugene City Councilor Cynthia Wooten was 23 when she and others pulled together the first Oregon Renaissance Faire, as the Oregon Country Fair was originally called, in 1969. She served as the master of ceremonies on a sunny Saturday afternoon in June.

As photos were being collected to celebrate this anniversary, Wooten saw many images of herself when her life was less than a third of what it is today. She made the mistake, as she often does, of thinking out loud.

“Well, I haven’t changed that much,” she said as she viewed her much-younger self. Every eye in the room rolled. They all laughed together. Wooten summed her lesson this way: “We see ourselves best through one another — not only best, but truest.” Her final words from the ceremony were similarly wise, but there was more history to be retraced first.

Ron Chase, formerly the executive director of Sponsors, Inc., recounted the circuitous route the group took to buy its acreage beside the Long Tom River in Veneta. He described it as a time when the organization progressed from infancy to adolescence to adulthood.

There was no mention of old age, even though it has descended on the luckiest of those who were there when it all started.

Sue Kesey recalled how Springfield Creamery rose from the ashes of a devastating fire during one of those early years by renting the Veneta land for a fundraising concert by the Grateful Dead. That rent payment of $25,000 was essential. The Fair was learning to balance its checkbook for the first time.

Leslie Scott, who balanced that checkbook for the Fair for 17 years, shared a lesson she offers her event planning students. “If building community is your goal, throw a party. The shared effort and the common goal will bring people together — even if it’s for nothing but fun.”

Former Mayor Kitty Piercy brought things up to date by calling for Eugene to build a hippy museum, so that this peculiar strain of the city’s heritage can be preserved. Many hope the Fair’s influence will someday be better expressed across the community and across the calendar. Others prize the Fair’s ethereal nature most of all.

Should the Fair’s presence be permanent? Or should it pop into existence each summer and then disappear, leaving only memories? The consensus answer was both.

Wooten’s closing comment in June sums up the Fair and its ethos better than any I’ve ever heard. I want her words to ring in your ears if you plan to attend. “Enjoy yourself, but mostly enjoy each other.”


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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