The Oregon Country Fair turns 50 years old in 2019 — and that’s a pretty big deal.
Since 1969, the Fair has provided a place for music, arts, crafts and self-expression to thrive. Set among trees above the Long Tom River in Veneta just outside Eugene, the Oregon Country Fair features a labyrinth of craft and food vendors, traveling musicians and circus acts, live performances and impromptu gatherings.
Fair-goers can let loose and embrace their quirky sides. For many, it’s a feeling of coming home.
It all takes place the second weekend of July. The Fair is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday through Sunday (July 12-14, 2019), which leaves a lot of time for exploration.
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.
For its 50th anniversary, the Fair is hosting some big names on the lineup. Get ready to groove to the sounds of Phil Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band, The Polish Ambassador, Jim James, ALO, The Dandy Warhols, MarchFourth, High Step Society and many more.
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 extra 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 booth’s workers.
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.
Better yet, make OCF part of a larger road trip and spend the night at the Oregon Coast in Florence (60 miles away), or explore the McKenzie River area (30 miles away).
For more information about the Oregon Country Fair, visit the official website.