Every second weekend of July, the small town of Veneta bursts with colorful characters as the Oregon Country Fair opens its gates. This three-day festival is a time for fairgoers to let loose and embrace uniqueness. For many, it’s a feeling of coming home.
It took me several years and forging many friendships to get a job at The Fair, which makes me pretty qualified to share some insider tips. OCF is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday through Sunday (July 7-9, 2017), which leaves a lot of hours for exploration and excitement. Get ready, because there is nothing like the Oregon Country Fair.
Prepare to be entertained
With 12 performance stages, more than 700 artisans, over 75 food vendors, a sauna complex and who-knows-how-many impromptu entertainers, there’s never a dull moment at The Fair. Grab a Peach Pit map to familiarize yourself with the scene — just remember that some of the best OCF experiences come from wandering through the maze of booths without a plan. You can’t really prepare yourself for the unexpected, but that’s half the fun.
My favorite stages are W.C. Fields, where you can find awe-inspiring circus acts and hilarious slapstick comedians, and the Main Stage, which hosts popular upbeat bands that inspire even the most shy wallflowers to dance in the field.
Keep in mind that on hot days there can be some nudity at The Fair. Also, outsiders often consider this a “hippie gathering,” so you’ll encounter an abundance of friendliness, bare feet and the sound of drum circles. (If any of this doesn’t sound appealing to you, perhaps another Oregon festival would better suit your tastes.)
At The Fair, you could eat four meals a day and not even sample half of the culinary offerings. Imagine your favorite dish made with love and you’ll find it at OCF. Pad Thai topped with creamy peanut sauce? Head to Bangkok Grill. Hot, satisfying samosas? Eat at Sonny’s India House. Lip-smacking pulled-meat sandwiches? Cart de Frisco. Perfected Mexican fare? Ritta’s Burritos, The Whole Enchilada or El Burrito Shop. Decadent cakes and cookies? Dana’s Cheesecake. The list goes on.
Try a true Fair staple with Tofu Palace, a mainstay at OCF since its inception in the 1960s. Located at the festival’s entrance, this booth delights vegetarians and omnivores with tasty tofu burritos, salads, hibiscus coolers and more — but, truth be told, I may be biased as one of the cashiers and a longtime fan.
Rest your head
You’ll need to recharge in between the three days of OCF. Plan ahead if you want to sleep at any of the neighboring campgrounds. Sites like Darling Reunion, Shady Rest, Zumwalt and Carefree Farms often sell out weeks, if not months, before The Fair. Meanwhile it’s competitive to grab a spot at nearby Lane County campsites, such as Richardson Park, which often require a short drive.
Those who prefer hotel accommodations should take advantage of Lane County’s free bus service connecting Eugene to the Oregon Country Fair. There are plenty of great lodging options in Eugene, the home of the University of Oregon, from suites at Excelsior Inn and Valley River Inn, to reliable rooms at many national hotel chains.
For more information about the Oregon Country Fair, visit the official website.
Photo credits: Yvonne Arasmith, Sachie Yorck, Yvonne Arasmith