Monday, July 23, 2007

The Oregon Country Fair - 2007

A week ago this morning we were all up much too early, breaking down tents, packing up the duffle bags, pulling down the tarps and plastic that had kept the rain off. Monday at the Oregon Country Fair.

There was a rushed, hectic energy. Karen, Danny and Zoe were planning to make it back in one day, as were Jerry and Joyce. They were all determined to get out as quick as they could and start their ten hour journey.

Krista and I had planned a more relaxed pack out, but I wanted Danny’s help pulling off the loft floorboards and rails to tuck them away for another year. So we joined in the mad scramble to get all of our junk out of the loft.

Jerry had brought their little car in early to pack it up and then they were off in a rush of hugs and see you soon’s or see you next year’s ringing out. Then Joyce was back, breathless and flustered. They’d got a flat tire! They’d only gone 50 feet! She was afraid Jerry was going to have a heart attack! So I helped them change it and off they went again. What luck!

Somehow Karen had scored a gardenway cart and soon they were all packed up and heading out. The eight was getting jammed up with cars and the food booths still open for breakfast had long lines. Once they left we took a deep breath and settled in to pack up. Krista had a nasty cold and just felt horrible. Luckily the girls were out at Barter Fair in the parking lot, with Vicky and Danny’s big orange van as their base camp. We hadn’t seen them for two hours, and could only hope they were having fun. Time to pack up.

That was a week ago this morning and 500 miles away from here. We rested up at Nancy’s house in Eugene, and didn’t come home ‘til Friday, but I’m still a bit tired, down in my bones.

I’m sure we’ll remember 2007. But I’m not sure just how we’ll remember it. This fair was a real mixed bag with some wonderful highs and some nasty lows and an overall wondering Is This Really Worth It? Most unusual for the Oregon Country Fair.

The lows were mostly about showing up too tired and worn out to ever really enjoy ourselves, actually dealing with illness, rain on Wednesday night, a hassle with our neighbor over fence lines, hassles with a fair official, getting separated Saturday night and very low sales on Friday and Saturday. Enough said.

Our sales Sunday were so good it turned out to be our best fair ever, financially. We also felt that it was our best display ever, with almost all original art and really excellent art too. We actually sold five painting, which is a record. We sold lots of sarongs, which made me happy. And all the prints and cards we sold made the van lighter for the trip back!

I’m pretty sure the girls all had their best fair ever. We had worked hard with India and Eden to have good stuff for them to sell. India needed to pay us for her Not Back To School Camp, so I helped her with a huge bottle cap magnet/jewelry project in the weeks before we left. She also had her stickers and lots of ‘gnomies’ (her felted wool dolls) to sell. And she sold them. She gave us $750 at the end of the fair! And she was still able to buy her own ice cream, cheesecake and some clothes at the Barter Fair.

More than the money though, it really feeds her to have a following. Every year more folks come looking for her. They love her gnomies and her stickers. She’s all set up in her little stand, especially at night with the Christmas lights illuminating her and her wares. She loves it. And this year, out at the Barter Fair, she was carrying around a basket of gnomies and was approached by some of The Kitchen Synchopaters. They wanted to trade with her for some CDs! Way cool.

Just days before we left home, we took Eden for a walk at the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, to collect sticks and moss, oak galls and such for making fairy furniture. This was really Krista’s inspiration and she set to with a little glue gun, helping Eden design chairs, a bed, lamps and tables and other very charming odds and ends to sell at the fair. We packed them carefully into a big hat box.

On Thursday morning she set it all out on Mitch’s empty counter and within 20 minutes had sold her most expensive piece, the bed, for $45! A woman bought it to use for a jewelry display in her store. Within an hour I think she’d sold most of the chairs too. Mind you, this is a day before the fair actually opens. She sold almost all of what she brought and along with her stickers made over $300. Pretty good for a 9 year old.

Luckily Zoe made lots of crocheted hats and water bottle holders to sell. I think Zoe made over $200. In years past Karen and Krista would take the girls over to the Starlight Velvet booth and buy them a nice velvet dress or skirt. We had told Eden we weren’t going to buy her velvets this year, so she went with Karen and Zoe and bought her own! It just so happened to be a shirt that cost $45, the same as the fairy bed she’d sold.

She got a lot of praise for doing this, from just about everyone around. I think it was a powerful experience for her.

In some ways Thursday has become our toughest day. Lots of folks arriving—Krista’s folks, Jay and Eileen and their niece Natalie, Mitch’s whole crew and all their boxes of pottery. Meanwhile we’re putting up our big signs, the lights, the tables and hanging all the paintings.

Hanging paintings is the worst. It usually involves standing on a rickety chair, holding the heavy drill driver with some screws in my mouth and having Krista tell me things like ‘no a little lower’ or ‘maybe move that one to the left a bit’, with paintings being handed up and down up and down until my head is dizzy.

This year I was hanging my first painting, up on the rickety chair, trying to get a screw into the wall, when I noticed my arms were shaking. I’m really not accustomed to shaking arms and took it as a sign of exhaustion.

Just then Steve Bush shows up and asks if we need any help. I almost wept. I handed him the drill driver and went to lie down in the loft. He and Krista did the whole thing, with some expert aesthetic guidance from Joyce. I think he may actually have enjoyed the experience, though that may be going too far. I was very grateful.

In a similar way, Danny took on a number of key projects—leveling a new tent site and the kitchen area, installing the rain plastic over booth (with thumbtacks!), and most vital of all, getting our loft secure from the imminent rain Wednesday evening. By the time we were done it was really raining too. Since we have a tree coming up through our loft area, this is a very challenging endeavor, which requires standing up on the wobbly loft rails about 14 feet off the ground, holding on with one hand while somehow getting the clamps over the plastic or tarps. I always feel Mr. Death looking over my shoulder up there, but Danny makes it look easy. I think he actually gets off on the challenge!

Meanwhile, the fair is getting rolling. By Thursday night there the fair family promenade is going by, relaxed and happy and fun. We’re selling a few cards and prints. Camp is all set up, the food booths are now open and life is good.

On Friday morning the public comes in, with their costumes, curiosity and enthusiasm. I enjoy these first waves of folk on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They buoy me up! And when Krista and I are in the booth selling (on our shift) the appreciation for her artwork makes all the effort and struggle worthwhile. And when the appreciation becomes tangible through actual sales, especially of a painting, there is a kind of energy exchanged which really feeds me.

Meanwhile, there are parades, people in astonishing costumes, painted boobies, and there is music everywhere, people dressed to the nines, impromptu theater—the fair is magic. And I’ve got a bit of it captured in my photos. Check them out over on Flickr if you like.

I’ve got more stories to tell, but it’s time to go, so maybe I’ll try again another day.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fire Danger Low

We pulled out of the Oregon Country Fair on Monday afternoon and got to Nancy's house in Eugene around 4pm. By 6 it was raining and during the night it poured! We were all so grateful it never rained like that at the fair. Our loft/sleeping area would have been drenched. So today is Thursday and it's been raining ever since. Summer in Eugene. Fire danger extremely low.

Yesterday was my birthday. Nancy made us her famous waffles for breakfast and Krista and I went out to do some recreational shopping in Eugene--Ruby Chasm, Down to Earth, Antrican, Smith Family Books, a little art gallery for a Venosa showing.
I'm sorry to report that Eugene's downtown continues to shed retail stores and although it has been beautified again and again (and it really is quite beautiful, with nice statuary and huge flower baskets hanging everywhere), it feels empty and sad to me. Every year now more of our old favorite stores are gone.
When we came back from Bali we met folks who would say "oh, you should have been there back in the 70's. It's too developed now". Well, I was in Eugene back in the 70's and it really was the time to be there I guess. Lucky me.

Danny and Vicky had us over for dinner last night and our musical friend Melissa Verbena was there, along with a fellow named Scotty, from the local band The Sugar Beets. The girls played with 9 year old Riley, Vicky and Danny's home schooled, world traveling daughter.

We had a lovely Thai food dinner and lots fun, light hearted conversation. And then Scotty's cel phone rang. It was such a weird ringtone that he ended up showing us how he'd made up these 11 little silly happy birthday songs for a client. They ranged from a magic fairy blessings one to Frank Sinatra, a cowboy one, Marilyn Monroe, WWF, sci fi and so on. He played them one by one on his cel phone and we all laughed and clapped.

After such concentrated happy birthday energy I simply had to tell them that it was, in fact, my birthday. An astonishing coincidence! They all grabbed guitars and piano and started playing a happy birthday jam. Just for me! Vicky singing with her beautiful trained voice. It just blew me away! My cheeks got sore from smiling and laughing so hard!

After that it was song after song after song. Everything from Goodbye Ruby Tuesday to beautiful heart opening songs Danny or Melissa had written. Ecstatic. And Krista, emboldened and encouraged by this group, played and sang her own songs better and stronger than I've ever heard. We only took breaks for coconut ice cream and a game of sardines.

We got back to Nancy's around midnight and she was still up! We got to chat awhile before crashing. Best birthday I can remember.

Today we're planning to climb Mount Pisgah (in the rain?) and have a tofu weenie roast (in the rain?) in Nancy's back yard. Tomorrow we head on home.

I'm still working on my OCF photos. And I'm not quite ready to write about the fair. It was a weird one for sure.