Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oregon Country Fiasco - The Whole Ugly Story


It wasn't all bad. Parts of Friday and most of Saturday were great. We actually did very well, sales wise, despite pretty much losing Sunday.
But it was bloody awful.
I'm about to complain, so you should probably stop reading this now.
First off, it was a very bad year for mosquitoes. Very bad. I'd bought an electric zapper tennis racket sort of thing and we put it to good use. Without that we'd have been totally miserable.
We arrived earlier than ever before, Tuesday morning, which was lucky because the big tree in our booth had come to lean on our loft, pushing it way out of kilter. I had to demolish some of our railings to free it up!
Later on, when we had to tarp for rain, the tree got even with me. Basically, it's impossible to really tarp our booth. The tree comes right up through the middle of our loft.

By Tuesday evening we were way ahead of the game, camp all set up and we went to bed early.
Unfortunately, other folks had other ideas. There seems to be a growing number of meth heads at the fair. At least this is my suspicion. They stay up all night, roving around and yelling. Unlike the giggling or awestruck folks on shrooms or acid, they howl and bray with ugly profane voices. I hate it. Despite very good earplugs, I lost a lot of sleep Tuesday and Wednesday nights. By Thursday there was enough other background noise to muffle their impact.
By Friday and Saturday nights I went to bed too late, and was too tired, to be woken up anyway.

Except now that I remember, on Friday it started raining just a little. Just enough to panic everyone and force us out of bed to tarp everything. We were up running around from about 2 to 3:30. No wonder I was so tired Saturday.

I am happy to report that sales were very good. Krista sold a small painting right off the bat on Thursday. She ended up selling at least one more painting, two triptychs and two hand painted purses. Her photo prints did especially well, which is very satisfying for her, since they represent her newer/newest work.
I think our display was the best ever (and that's saying a lot, since last year's was so good). Krista's work was so warmly and enthusiastically received by the fair communinty that it really got her charged up.

Eden and Zoe also did a great business with their stuffed toys and earrings respectively. India's sales took a while to get going and she wasn't very happy the first few days, but eventually she got her mojo back.

So registration is on Wednesday. That means a long trek out to the fields to get our wristbands. Last year Krista had a major bad trip when the fair had raised the cost of a teen pass without giving any notice. That meant waiting in line twice. The whole thing took two hours in the hot hot sun and Krista blew her circuits. So this year she was extra careful to avoid any similar problem, but guess what? Somehow Eden's pass wasn't paid for and we had to do it all over agian. We were in line for well over two hours, in part because the registration crew seemed to all be stoned off their gourds. It's hard to imagine how they could be any less efficient. Krista was so upset we had to stop and do some emergency tapping. It was just awful.

It wasn't just us either. Pretty much everyone was talking about how it took them hours to get their wrist bands. It used to be a 20 minute deal. What the hell happened?

Then a few hours later all of our crew and some of our neighbors (we share the back yard) all showed up at the same time. Our lovely little camp became a scene of horrible chaos for some hours, with jumbled luggage and bags of what not and tents going up left and right. Krista and I had to get the hell out of there! Unfortunately, my back was so sore it litterally hurt to walk.
I was able to book a massage the next afternoon with a very good therapist named Sarananda. I put up a sign on our wall and all day people kept reminding me to remember my appointment.

Even though we had our great crew, there were quite a few folks missing: Jay & Eileen, Jann & Kendra and Meredith & Steve to name a few. Even the Inkwell Rhythm Makers weren't around.

On Friday my lovely neice Kaytea showed up with her little baby Nalina. They were staying at Nancy's house and we got to hang out with them all weekend, which was great. I think it was much harder for Kaytea than she'd anticipated though!

By late Saturday it was looking like another happy exhausting fair. But then our traditional night time fun just never happened. We were all too tired to have much fun. Most of our crew went to bed by ten! Eden had a bad headache and had to be cared for. I ended up helping India sell the light toys she'd brought to make money for camp, which was okay, but no magical romp in the woods with my sweetie. Finally Krista got up from putting Eden to bed and we staggered off to the Ritz for a late night shower under the stars and a sauna. Possibly the high point of the fair for me.

And then Sunday came with black skies and thunder and soon it was raining in earnest.
In years past the fair would send a truck through dropping off strawbales and everyone would rush out and spread the straw around. Not this year. No straw, just a river of mud.
It got so bad that walking was very difficult. It was slippery and sticky and if you fell it would be a disaster. People began leaving in droves and still no straw.
Finally one truck came through with bales, but the guys on the truck were just tossing tiny handfuls off the back and laughing. It was obvious they were totally stoned or wasted on something.

My own anger grew and grew. I confronted as many staff people as I could find, even a board member. I kept getting different answers, all of them lame or nonsensical: straw may be contaminated with cow feces and poses a health threat. It will spread foreign seeds and ruin the ecosystem of the path. It will bunch up next time the river floods and cause serious erosion.
Meanwhile people were stuggling in the deep mud. Just getting to the porta-potties was a nightmare.

Sadly, my sister had flown up the night before to come out to the fair to visit us and Kaytea and Nalina. I saw her for maybe half an hour as I ran back and forth trying to deal with leaking tarps and water bubbles. We never even talked at all.

Strangely enough, even though it was raining, the day was cold. All day long we could see our breath! So we spent the day damp, or even soaked, in the cold. The only thing that kept hypothermia at bay was the need for constant work.

Finally around 8pm some vendors with handtrucks began breaking down the drum tower (which is all made of bales). Jerry and I carried a bale down to our booth. Within half an hour our whole stretch of the path was walkable again. Too late for the paying customers.

Meanwhile, all day long, we'd been struggling to keep Krista's work dry and our camping gear up in the loft dry. That meant using broom handles to carefully push out bulging pockets of water, catching drips upstairs in a five gallon bucket. I finally lost the battle upstairs.
I left to go pee and the rain became torrential. When I came back an enormous pocket of water had formed--at least ten gallons. Just as I reached it the plactic ruptured and it soaked our camping gear and cascaded down into the kitchen area below.

We slept in wet sleeping bags that night in a cast off tent (that actually collapsed during the night!) Even though it was leaky we were so exhausted we slept anyway.
Until 3am that is. The meth heads were back, just across the way with their witty banter and then a blaring radio. I had to get up and "ask" them to be quiet. They turned the radio way down right away and eventually left, so at least I didn't have to deal with belligerance. But I had way too many anger hormones already sloshing around my bloodstream.

Breakdown the next day was truly awful. Everything was damp and/or muddy and there was no place to put anything. And of course we couldn't bring in our vehicles. We'd have gotten stuck right away, or slewed into someones booth. But no worries, the fair has these 'gators' that pull trailers. That's how Krista's folks had gotten their stuff to the booth. We signed up early and set to packing up, which only took a few extra hours.

But no gators. There seemed to be no system at all to who they were picking up and they never did come for us. I suppose they'd have come the next day.
Instead we got garden way carts and took out about ten cart loads. Pushing a heavily loaded cart through thick slippery mud was a truly horrible experience. Our friend Karen declared it was just like the Middle Ages.

Most years we have the van all packed by about 10:30 or 11am. It took us till 5pm. We totally missed the barter fair. And I have rarely, if ever, been so exhausted.
If it's going to rain so be it, but we all felt the fair had totally let us down and made everything so much worse through mismanagement and bad decision making.

We got home yesterday evening, after a 9 hour drive through blasting heat. Today we've been washing our mildewed fabrics and laundry. We usually sit down and make a list of what went right and what needs improvement for next year. My heart just isn't in it and for the first time in 16 years I'm thinking only of taking a year or two off.

I'll be going through my photos soon, and I promise I'll post some happy ones.
rob

1 comment:

mollyf said...

Oh man. I don't think many people have the mettle you do. Is there anything that can be done about the fair mismanagement?