VENETA, Ore. (KMTR) –- The latest iteration of a Lane County fixture kicked off Friday morning, July 13, 2012, outside Veneta. 45,000 people were expected to make the pilgrimage to celebrate the 43rd Oregon Country Fair (OCF) and some were guessing the event may set new attendance records based on initial ticket sales.
The Fair officially opened with a ceremony at the Main Stage honoring the Earth. Organizers focused their message on the concept that all of the material goods people focus on ultimately comes from resources provided by the planet. The ritual is mounted by the same group in a five year cycle. Last year Water was honored, some of which was used in the opening Earth ceremony.
As part of the formality, fair organizers dedicated a baby oak tree which came from the meadow that is part of the main stage. The tree will be planted on the 208-acre property. “Be grateful, grateful for this Earth. This Earth that holds us - this Earth that's under your feet,” recited one of the organizers in the opening ceremony.
While the OCF has become a staple for many around the state, the fair also attracts many people from across the U.S. "If you like diversity and want to have fun, come to the Oregon Country Fair,” said Paul Mandry, who now lives in New York. Mandry traveled to Oregon specifically for the Fair this year.
In addition to entertainers, engaging attendees and performances, the event hosts more than sixty food booths, 600 vendors who handcraft their products and more than a dozen stages with varied music and acts throughout the three-day festival.
Financially, local analysts report the Fair has a positive impact on Lane County's economy, contributing more than $12 million to the area.
While the event's atmosphere remains the same year after year, organizers continue to add new features. One of the most exciting is the first addition of acreage to the fair in more than a decade. Organizers have also added a brand new Kids Loop to one area; along the way inside the loop is a giant metal star. Another element is a large set of musical metal sculptures that people can play. A new child care center is a welcome feature where parents to leave their children for just two dollars per hour.
A 27-year OCF veteran, Omroa Bhagwadin helps run the center, saying he's seen some kids grow up at the fair, from toddlers to teenagers. “We added another fifty staff to run this, so now we're up to 119 staff and so what it tells us is that we're really respected here as an essential part of the fair, because if you can leave your kids here, it's as if you were watching your own kids,” says Bhagwadin.
One of the most eye-catching additions is the Blue Sky Rainbow Bridge Calendar, a 10- to 12-foot-tall obelisk, displaying glass tiles, each representing a day of the year. The calendar weighs about one ton and took several years to construct. It is dedicated to Robyn Blue Sky Weir, one of the long-time fair volunteers who died in a plane crash in late June 2012.
In an attempt to document the history of the fair, organizers have also created free photo booth. The pictures will be put in a fair archive.
“This is really comprehensive and holistic fun,” said Cat Daddy, who helped lead Eugene's Samba Ja in the Lime Green Parade on Friday.
The Oregon Country Fair continues through Sunday, July 15th. For more information about tickets, travel and what's at the fair, click http://www.oregoncountryfair.org/tickets.php.