Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Oregon Country Fair 2010

Happy Anniversary, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

This year was our 17th year at the fantastic Oregon Country Fair. The fair is always the second weekend in July about half an hour west of Eugene. I've written a few words below with each photo about the fair and our experiences this year. For lots more photos please visit my Flickr set.

Deva Luna circa 2010

Deva Luna circa 2010, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

This year may have been our most beautiful display so far, anchored by the gorgeous painting of the Red Catfish with Animale in the background. Aside from Krista's dramatic painting Siren's Lament, which came out around the time of the BP oil spill, things were much the same as last year.
We were selling paintings and triptychs, prints and cards, stickers and magnets and sarongs and Krista's new book The Painted Tongue Flowers. To see more of Krista's work, check out her website Deva Luna.com
We had a wonderful crew this year, with Krista's folks and my niece Kaytea, Karen and Bruce and Zoe.
The weather was a little too hot, but after last years torrential rains and cold, we were all feeling grateful.

Water Fountain

Water Fountain, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

We sell Krista's art at the fair. But there is art everywhere, offered free for the love of it. Every year there are more displays. Occasionally something is retired or goes away, but over all the fair just keeps getting better. This copper leaf drinking fountain caught my eye one morning.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

This is a view of our backyard, looking down from the loft. There's also space underneath the loft where we have our kitchen area and tables for eating.
We share an open back yard with our neighbors Mitch and Michelle, potters from Sisters, Oregon and their whole crew. Over these last 16 years or so everyone has come to feel like family, and this is one of the nicest things about doing the fair: family.

Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Phoenix Rising sells cookies during the fair, but for breakfast they serve up scrambled eggs, pancakes and home fried potatoes. You load up your own plate and it's our old standby in the morning.
But Krista and her folks often walk out to the meadow where the tamale booth makes Eggs Benedict. There's very good coffee to be had at Dana's Cheesecake.
Even if you ate ten meals a day, I don't think you could sample every restaurant booth at the fair. And most of them are good. Some of them are incredible.
On Saturday I had a salad with grilled tempeh from the Sweet Leaf. That was my favorite meal this year. I was off on my own and I took my plate over to a table and ate with eight other folks, enjoying a spontaneous light hearted conversation with strangers.
Here are some of my faves: The Calzone booth, The Whole Enchilada, Get Fried Rice (we had an incredible bowl of soup there late Saturday night), The Quesedilla booth, Spanekopeta with Greek Salad, the tamale booth, the Peruvian food booth, Rising Moon Ravioli, and Che Ray's. There's also Nearly Normal's falafels, the Ring of Fire Thai and Indonesian food, Roll On Eggrolls, the pad thai booth, and Tempura just down the path. I'm sure this isn't even half of the food booths either.
It's always just a little sad for me at the end of the fair, realizing I'd missed out on one of my old favorites. You just can't do it all.

Bear Feet

Bear Feet, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

I think it was eight years ago, something like that, when the jug bands began showing up at the fair. The first one I remember was The Kitchen Synchopaters up from New Orleans. The Inkwell Rhythm Makers were there early on and put on incredible Saturday Night shows down the path from us for several years.
After a few years there were more and more of them. We called it the invasion of the jug bands, and most all of them are pretty good. To me they seem like kissing cousins of the jugglers and vaudeville acts. Lots of old timey showmanship and unexpected virtuosity right there on the path.
Krista and I watched this band, Bear Feet, for a few songs. They don't have a washtub bass but the girls were very cute!

Kaytea on Saturday Night

Kaytea on Saturday Night, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Saturday night is a really big deal at the fair. Many folks end up at Main Stage watching the Midnight Show, which features abbreviated acts from most of the stage performers. A torchlit marching band leads the way down the path and opens the show each year, but we rarely go.
There are actually hundreds of scenes available with lots of live music and spectacle, and most years we do our part to add a little color to the path.
India likes to set up her wool dolls and sticker in the kid's booth and I put out white xmas lights and candle lanterns to help her sell. We have our gorgeous fiber optic butterfly mounted high up on the booth and this year we had beautiful red flower lights all along the inside top of the booth.
I also brought back the "ball of mystery" shown in this photo. I don't remember the actual name for this thing, and I'm too lazy to look it up right now, but you touch the glass ball and a purple beam of plasma arcs up to touch your finger. It's really really cool. Especially when you're out in the woods at night and tripping on any sort of psychedelic.
In the early days we were one of the few booths with electricity and so the ball was a huge hippy magnate. We'd enjoy watching the folks trip out on it, touching it with many different body parts and ooohing and ahhhing.
But after some years of this my friend Danny said "you know, that thing is the least trippy thing here at the fair". He was right, so I retired it for a while. It was great to have it back though.
We also had music this year. Karen brought her boyfriend Bruce Klein, a truly awesome guitar player and his playing attracted a number of awesome strolling musicians. There was some incredibly sweet music happening in front of our booth for most of Saturday night.
How awesome to just sit still in front of the booth (we were all very tired) and have the show come to us for a while. It was lovely.


Godzilla, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Every morning, early, the trucks come around with their crews to collect the recycling, compost and garbage. Of all the wonderful trucks, Godzilla is king.
It seems that every year there is a new Godzilla doll mounted on the hood. And each doll has a costume and the costumes are amazingly detailed. One year one of the dolls shot out steam and made that trademark Godzilla screech.
This year there was a Little Bo Peep Godzilla clutching a felted wool sheep. For close ups of the individual dolls, check my Flickr site.

Our Target Market :: Fairies and Elves

Our Target Audience, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Way back when we first began making our living as crafts people, we sold beautiful ribbon rose jewelry. We still have boxes of the stuff in our shed, not to mention the ribbon, findings and such. It was lovely and elegant and all, but most of our customers were conservative middle aged women. I mean no offense to conservative middle aged women, but it was a huge relief once we started selling Krista's art work.
Suddenly we were attracting a diverse crowd, men and women, all ages. It was heaven. I'll never forget our very first show, the UC Davis Whole Earth Festival, which is always Mothers Day weekend. A handsome black man, around 30 or so, saw Krista's Mother Power image and exclaimed "That's BAD ASS!. I'm getting that for my mom!".
Naturally it feels great when were selling stuff and making money, but the interactions we have with groovy and appreciative folks are very very nurturing.

Three Hill Tribe Skirts

Three Hilltribe Skirts, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

These sweet women from southern Thailand wanted to get a photo with me. We had all gotten Hill Tribe skirts up in Chiang Mai. I wore this outfit all day Saturday and I must say, I was sacrificing comfort for style. It was a hot day and that shirt I'm wearing is really a jacket. My Akha crown is also rather heavy and hot.
I guess once a year I can bear it.

Extremely Cute Guy

Extremely Cute Guy, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Here's one for the ladies. There are so many beautiful people at the fair. I would have to say that most people become more beautiful just by being there, in the nurturing, rejuvenating atmosphere of uninhibited self expression.

On the Long Tom River

On the Long Tom River, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

The Long Tom River wends its way through the fair, and on hot hot days it's hard not to imagine ploshing in the water. I actually remember way back in the early 80's, when I was first attending the fair, seeing some tripped out folks in the water.
Alas, it is rumored to be very polluted from agricultural runoff. Maybe 20 years from now it will be clean again and a sandy beach and water play will be an established part of the OCF.

Vaudeville at the Fair

Charlie Brown and Rhys, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Yet another thing I LOVE about the fair is the amazing abundance of jugglers and vaudeville performers (not to mention jug bands). These guys do amazing tricks, but even better, they are incredibly funny.
This year I only saw two shows: UMO and Charlie Brown. They were both high points.
As much as I love Northern California, we seem to have a shortage of these kind of folks. Maybe it just costs to much to live down here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pilot Project for Reuseable Plates

A few years back the fair began requiring all food booths to use stainless steel silverware, which is collected at the recycling kiosks and washed and returned to service. I can't even imagine how much plastic this has kept out of the landfill.
Rising Moon Ravioli has been a leader in this movement, providing real ceramic plates (with a one dollar deposit). They wash them right there. This cuts down on the massive number of single use paper plates tossed away or composted.
This year four more food booths joined the effort in a pilot project and cheap stainless steel plates were introduced. If all went well the entire fair might go this way.
This is the sort of thing I just LOVE about the fair. I was very excited to see the shiny silver plates and collection drums. I hope it works out.

Eileen's Ashes

Eileen's Ashes, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

One thing that marks this year was the scattering of our dear friend Eileen's ashes around the booth. This photo was taken directly after the ceremony and ash spreading on Friday morning.
Eileen was the wife of Jay Dravitch, who chose us to share his booth some 17 years ago, and then a few years later passed it on to Krista.
Eileen passed on last August after dealing with brain tumors. She was a leader in the Northern California Sufi community and her illness and death were an amazing spiritual journey for a great many people. We've missed Eileen and Jay these past two years and hope that Jay may return to us next year.
I think the reason we all look so happy in this photo is that Eileen was an intensely happy person, full of wisdom and mirth. In remembering her so clearly we were all uplifted.

The Long Walk Out to Registration

One of the real bummers at the fair, just in recent years, has been dealing with registration, which means getting our camping wristbands and the vehicle sticker that allows us to park.
It used to take about half an hour waiting in line. The past three years have averaged about two hours. And that's waiting in the hot sun, in a crowd of cross, irritated people, some of whom are trying to cut in front of others!
This year we decided to be there at 7am when they opened. It was supposed to be a very hot day and we were used to getting up early anyway. We actually arrived at 6:45am and there were 17 people ahead of us. Unfortunately they didn't really open at 7, more like 7:30. It was just slightly better than last year.
Turns out our booth mates Karen, Bruce and Zoe showed up about 4:30pm and had NO ONE in line ahead of them. They waltzed up and had their wristbands in minutes. I guess that's what we'll try next year.

The Oregon Country Fair

Deva Luna circa 2010, originally uploaded by Robbi Baba.

Well, it was a pretty good year, all in all. Sure the mosquitoes were terrible from all the late rains. And it was too hot on Sunday. And there was a roving band of hooligans making way too much noise Thursday night, which made it very hard to sleep. And little Eden Fay got sick and had her worst fair ever.
But still. What a magical celebration of creativity, joy and spontaneous expression. As my neice Kaytea put it "Just spent days dancing with fairies, mingling with goddesses, laughing with abandon, reveling in luxurious independence, exploring the Enchanted Forest, ogling the diverse beauty of humanity, grooving to a spectrum of soul-tugging music and being enmeshed in untold magic".
That about sums it up.

Monday, July 05, 2010

On The Road to the Oregon Country Fair

Well, so far so good. We're camped out in our lovely motel room here in Eugene. It was one of the nicest drives up I can remember. The weather was great: mists on the hills around Sonoma, beautiful sun all up the Sacramento Valley. It did get a bit hot going through Redding, but we were out of there by 10am or so.
On Hwy 505 we saw hot air balloons up ahead. Way cool! Even better, we ended up driving right under them! They were only about 100 feet above us. And there were vast fields of sunflowers and everything seemed lush and blooming from all the late rains.
Mount Shasta was gorgeous! All clad in white. Everybody was in a good mood, the music was just right and we got to Ashland in record time.
We had our traditional picnic in Lithia Park on the grass and ploshed around in the creek. The water was deeper than I'd seen it in July and very very cold! I stayed in until my feet were totally numb.
I have to admit that the road from Ashland up to Eugene was as long and boring as ususal. It just goes on and on and on forever. But actually only until 5pm when we pulled into the Campus Inn.
It was sunny and warm enough to walk around to find a dinner spot (Cafe Yumm) and visit the glorious U of O campus (my alma mater). Krista was upset that she didn't have her camera, there were so many fine Art Deco things to admire. We all agreed to return after the fair. So tomorrow, if all goes well, we'll be out at the fair by 10 or 11am, unloading the absurd mound of stuff we brought and getting all set up.
Good night!