There is a place, in the woods of central Oregon, where thousands of hippies, mystical creatures and weirdos (and some cute suburbanite tourists) converge for three days out of every year. Music, vaudeville, dance, juggling, and performance art of every shape happens on several stages simultaneously, not forgetting the buskers in every nook and cranny. I have attended The Oregon Country Fair for the last 3 years, and it’s now on my must-do list forever more.
Aside from art and performances, part of the fun of the Fair is just the people-watching. It’s hotter than all get-out, but everyone dresses-up just the same. Some people’s costumes are mind-blowingly amazing, or just hilarious. Groups of these costumed people also create random parades along the pathways of the fair. This is one of the most entertaining things there.
Whilst walking to get to another stage, find the bathroom, or buy a glittery unicorn horn headband, you may run into jugglers, drummers, a bunch of people stumbling in the wilting heat, dressed in brown bananna costumes…
Or really tall clowns…
Or a pod of orcas…
Or a roving pool party complete with cocktails…
Or a ferocious dragon.
The fair also has booths with every manner of amazing art, costumes, clothing, instruments and the like woven throughout the huge piece of land. This year I b-lined to my favorite feather booth to stock-up on amazing vibrant blue and purple facinator hair clips, and I bought a stunning black and gold parasol at another booth.
Here is my new fabulous parasol, and my sassy Fair outfit:
Here’s the fantastic hand-painted leather mask my mom picked-up:
And the food is nothing you’ll find at any other Fair, it’s actually healthy and delicious, with a vast multitude of choices. My favorite meal this year was a heaping plate of Cajun red beans and rice with riblets and watermelon, it fueled me up to frolic for the entire day. And of course in the mid-day heat we HAD to also stop at the Coconut Bliss booth for a coconut ice cream bar. Delish. There are tons of options for a variety of diets, from gluten free, to vegan, to paleo, etc.
But I have to say that, hands down, one of my very favorite places to be at the fair is the Gypsy Caravan Stage. It’s a small stage area on a side path where you sit on pillows in the straw and watch some of the most amazing belly dancers on the planet.
I know most of the people in that audience have no. idea. how famous and amazing these dancers are. It’s like they’re watching Jimmy Hendrix but have never heard of him. I always want to tell them all: “DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE!? SERIOUSLY. YOU HAVE NO IDEA…. WHAT, HOW DARE YOU GET UP TO LEAVE DURING ZOE’S SET… SIT THE FUCK DOWN.”
You can watch the likes of Rachel Brice, Colleena Shakti, Zoe Jakes, Sharon Kihara, and many more on a tiny stage. (and ALL of the performances at the fair are free. Just for a $22-$25 per day ticket, or $58 for all three, gets you access to everything.)
My first year I spent HOURS just sitting there, wide-eyed, mouth agape, watching the belly dancers and zagareeting my heart out.
And, at the end of each set, just to make any belly dance fan-dork’s heart leap out of their chest, the dancers walk around in the audience and collect tips in baskets. You then try to act really really normal (don’t act like a fan dork!) while giving them cash and telling them you loved their performance.
This year I had the pleasure of seeing Zoe Jakes (which was awesome because I wasn’t able to get anywhere NEAR the main stage during her band Beats Antique‘s set), Colleena Shakti, Sharon Kihara, and an amazing local dancer named Claudia.
This year’s videos aren’t up yet on youtube, but here is a recording of part of the show from 2013.
There is also camping around the fair grounds, to which I would highly advise:
a) Book early.
b) Be very, very mindful of whether you want a party camp or a family-oriented camp. There are some crazy all-night parties in some of them. Read the camp descriptions carefully.
c) Cell phone reception sucks, so camp near your friends.
d) Bring wet wipes, because your feet will look like this at the end of the day:
So if you’re ever in Oregon in July and want to have an amazing time, dress like a wood nymph, and get all sweaty dancing with a bunch of weirdos in the woods, come to the Country Fair.
To entice you even more, here is a gallery of some of the photos of the fair that I’ve taken over the past 3 years: