One Year on the Road

Embracing Eugene



We chose a perfect time to come back to Eugene. For all the drabness of its winters, Eugene fully redeems itself come summer. The weather is warm but not hot, with just enough rain to stay green. The whole town seems to burst outside to celebrate.

We’ve been in the house three weeks now, and a lot of our time has been taken up with moving back in and unpacking. But we’ve made sure to get in some fun as well, and we were here in time for two of my favorite summer events: July 4th and the Oregon Country Fair.

Fourth of July Events

For me, this day began with the annual Butte-to-Butte race. It starts in our neighborhood at Spencer Butte Middle School and ends downtown at the foot of Skinner’s Butte. There are 10K and 5K options and participants can either run or walk. I’m sorry to say I did neither; I just showed up with my camera for the start. I love the spectacle of it and seeing the impressive range of racers, including children and alter-abled. I’m no runner, but when I saw a 60-something woman with a prosthetic leg, I told myself, “Okay, next year!”

Orchestra band music in the sun.

Our favorite local festival always occurs around the 4th, and this year it was Saturday through Monday. Art & the Vineyard is a fundraiser for the Maude Kerns Art Center. It’s in a large park on the river and includes live music, art booths, wine tasting, kid crafts, and garden art. We went down on the 4th and stayed for the afternoon. It was cool enough to enjoy hanging out on a blanket in the sunshine, listening to music. And we love checking out all the creative art.

Neighbor kids.

Neighbor kids.

We got home in time for the neighborhood fireworks show. There’s a whole new generation of youngsters in our neighborhood now, and they raced in mad, screaming circles around the shooting sparks. Between booms, Kate and I reconnected with neighbors and enjoyed the chaotic scene, grateful that we didn’t have to get those hyped-up kids to bed. Instead, as dark came, we jumped in the Saab with the top down and drove downtown to watch fireworks in the sky.

Oregon Country Fair

This has to be the world’s ultimate hippie festival. It was started in 1969 as a Renaissance Fair on wooded property outside Veneta (near Eugene). It’s kept the same location, the same ambience and intention, and many of the original founders, but it’s grown larger every year. This year over 45,000 people attended the three-day event.

Nature boy on stilts.

It’s hard to describe the Fair to someone who’s never been. It’s over-the-top creative expression in a fairy-like wooded setting. There are 18 stages with nonstop music, dancing, vaudeville, acrobatics… you name it. Hundreds of food booths and craft booths. Great explosions of color. But what really makes the Fair the Fair is the people. Fair workers and goers alike take the opportunity to dress outlandishly, from face and body paint to giant stilt creations. And some choose not to dress at all. Anything goes is the general motto. But drugs and alcohol are forbidden during the public hours, even recently legalized marijuana. Who needs substances when everyone around you seems happy-high on life? Even when the crowds squeezed shoulder to shoulder, they were mellow and friendly. Every accidental bumping brought a huge apologetic smile.

A kiss from white girl.

Kate ended up not going this year, but our goddaughter, Aly, came down from Seattle for it. It was wonderful to see her again and to spend some time with her at the Fair before she met up with friends. I’m actually quite happy to wander around all day by myself, chatting with strangers, catching performances, and taking photos that try to capture the joy and outlandishness of it all. The first year I brought my camera, I was self-conscious about taking photos, not wanting to seem like an ogling outsider. Surprisingly few people bring cameras; maybe it’s the in-the-moment atmosphere of the place. But I’ve never encountered one person who isn’t more than happy to have their picture taken. To see photos I’ve taken of previous Country Fair years, go to

Nationwide news has been distressing so far this summer, and recent shootings have left me shocked and demoralized, wondering what is happening to this country? Is it only going to get worse as this country’s population rushes to arm itself? A good dose of Country Fair was not only a welcome escape into happy but also a reminder of what a more peaceful utopia could look like.

4th of July Photos:

Flash Slideshow

WordPress Photo Album

Oregon Country Fair Photos:

Flash Slideshow

WordPress Photo Album

About Us

One thought on “Embracing Eugene

  1. Jan

    Welcome home Jennifer, Kate, Bailey and Gypsy. thanks you so much for sharing your journey with me. One the past year I have been avidly following you, enjoying both text and photos. Hope to see you sometime soon

Leave a Reply