Summer’s Here, But Where Are the Bugs?

Eugene offers several shots from the starter’s pistol, declaring the official beginning of summer. By any measure, the race has now begun.

For almost a generation, the Willamette Valley Folk Festival (now called the Willamette Valley Music Festival) was the official start of the season. (May 11) Students dancing on the sometimes muddy lawn behind the EMU graced many newspaper section fronts over the years, declaring the end of a soggy spring and heralding the season ahead.

Lately our summer has sported from an earlier start, marked by the Eugene Marathon. (April 28) Others insist the summer cannot begin without hot dogs, so they prefer the opening of the Emeralds’ short season of baseball. (June 14)

The last of the holdouts are giving in this weekend, taking their cue from Maude Kerns Art Center’s Art and the Vineyard Festival. Its 30th annual appearance began yesterday and continues through Saturday.

What causes some to wait so long to admit that summer has begun? They can’t let go of the idea that summer should be warm, sunny and dry. Oregonians often suffer through long stretches of “June gloom” — the term refers both to the weather and how it affects our mood. Things don’t look safe from disappointment above until July.

I grew up in the Midwest, so I don’t expect summertime to be dry. Late April suits me fine. I grew up where summer began when the mounds of snow piled under parking lot light poles melted completely, so my standards are liberatingly low.

The only way I can think to improve our summers might be to import lightning bugs, but I’m told they prefer humidity. Our mothers always gave us mayonnaise jars to procure our prey, with air holes perforating the lid. I’ve learned to get along without the bugs, the humidity, or the mayonnaise (with occasional lapses).

Each of our popular starts of summertime have this in common. Each beckons us outdoors. Whenever we choose to start our summer, we all define it the same way. Summer is when you stop being cooped up indoors and you get outside for some Vitamin D and whatever else the skies have to offer.

Chambers Communication Corporation President Scott Chambers argued for years with the Nielsen Company that their television ratings in our market were worthless for summertime, because everybody was outside gardening or goofing off. People in the rest of the country may be huddled by their air conditioners or watching sports on TV, eager to answer some telemarketer’s survey questions, but not here. I’m sure he was right.

From now until the Ducks’s first home game at Autzen Stadium (August 31), Lane County boasts a steady stream of outdoor events. Next weekend is the Oregon Country Fair (July 12-14), then Eugene Symphony in the Park (July 20), followed by the Lane County Fair (July 24-28) and Faerieworlds at Mount Pisgah (July 26-28).

If you must go inside, we mustn’t forget the Oregon Bach Festival (continuing through July 14), and there’s always the Oregon Festival of American Music (August 6-11), and the Eugene Celebration will be indoors and out (August 23-25). The Ems’ last home game is the next day. (August 26)

There’s plenty more going on throughout the summer, but this isn’t the calendar page. Nor is it an advertisement, reminding you to buy the larger bottle of sunscreen lotion.

I gathered together some of the biggest crowd-pleasers to demonstrate a larger point. We’re fortunate to have a tons of offerings, virtually every weekend until school resumes, featuring plenty of local talent and a wide range of local interests, under what will almost certainly be blue skies and moderate temperatures.

We’re lucky to be here. Breathtaking abundance has always been the hallmark of our region — fishing, then farming, and now festivals.

Whatever your tastes and entertainment rhythms, you should get outside and enjoy yourself. If that makes the work of some air-conditioned telemarketers more difficult, well, that just adds to the pleasure, doesn’t it?

And if somebody breeds a humidity-resistant firefly, you’ll find me in the grocery store’s mayonnaise section.


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