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What started as a small crowd partying in an empty parking lot in the Whiteaker among amps and beer kegs has grown, in eight short years, into a neighborhood-encompassing celebration of community and unique Eugene culture. Featuring a couple dozen local bands, food and craft vendors, an art and kid zone, carnival games, a dunk tank, beer gardens and even a bike valet, on Saturday, Aug. 2, from noon to 10 pm — it’s the Whiteaker Block Party (WBP).

During the Whiteaker Block Party, parking is usually a pain, with drivers scouring residential streets for a spot, sometimes giving up and parking illegally. This year, the Whiteaker Community Council is trying to alleviate the problem by opening up at least two gravel lots in the neighborhood for $5 per car. The WCC will use its share of the funds for a big long-term goal: a public parking lot in the Whit.

According to Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz, “Happiness is a warm puppy.” We agree. It’s also a warm kitty, a happy pig, a galloping horse or singing bird, to name a few of the many animals we have in our lives. Pet-lovers, we remind you, as always, to spay and neuter, and to check out Greenhill, First Avenue or any of the many caring rescues in Lane County when looking to add another non-human animal to your family. You can find rescues and available pets at PetFinder.com and find pets of the week here in EW’s pages. Don’t forget to have a collar and license on your beastie to make sure he finds the way back again, should he ever stray — because happiness for our domestic pets means a secure home, whatever form that may take, with food, care and love. 

Standing in Jud Turner’s kitchen, a gaggle of cats gobbling snacks at our feet, we hear a faint ting-a-ling coming from the basement.

“I think he just rang his bell,” Turner says, straining to hear. “He has a bell that he rings when he wants to go outside or wants to know what’s up.” Turner disappears down the stairs.

“What’s up, piggy?” I hear him say. He’s answered with some contented snorting.

While strolling around Eugene, if you look closely enough among the concert posters, job postings, graffiti and other ephemera tacked to poles, you may notice the heartache and hidden poetry of missing pet notices.

“You are unique. You want a unique pet. Everyone has German shepherd or Lab puppies for sale but that’s not You. You are amazing and You want a amazing pet. You want people to stop You wherever you go to ask about your animal.”

So reads an online advertisement claiming to sell wolfdog puppies (“GIANTS AVAILABLE!”), though most of the photos look like Siberian husky pups, and a few might have been mixed with a little something else.

Equestrian competitions are one of the few sports in which men and women compete on equal ground. Rider Karianne Boyce-Lockhart has been beating men and women alike, jumping her horses Hopscotch and Ferro DC over huge grand prix fences around the Northwest, California and Canada. A Eugene native, she won two grand prix competitions in a row in July and she came in sixth at a World Cup qualifier in June, jumping some fences over 5 feet tall. At a little more than 5 feet herself, she says when she’s on foot her eyes are level with some of the fences she rides her horses over.

After spending 30 stressful years working as a computer technician, Steve Walker found himself in his early sixties and looking for a career change that would facilitate both his retirement and his golfing hobby. Walker chose dog walking. 

A year and a half later and Walker’s “Top Dog” offers dog walking, pet sitting, vacation visits, pet transportation and errand running. The business has grown to the point that he occasionally turns down jobs to retain his partial retirement. 

In the 1950s and ’60s the new faster freeways of the Interstate Highway System could make or break the businesses of the towns they went through or bypassed. Oregon towns with freeway exits off I-5 often expanded, thanks to the advantages of being close to shipping and travel, while businesses in towns far from the new roads withered. Once upon a time, the same was true for towns along railroad tracks. 

Former Lane County commissioner Cindy Wood-Weeldreyer says she knew that history of connectivity when she first became aware of what many in the ’90s liked to call the “information superhighway,” and she kept it in mind when she began working to bring fiber-optic cable to the area. “You follow the blueprint of history when you see opportunities coming down the road,” Weeldreyer says.

I was a virgin at the 2013 Oregon Country Fair. It felt good to be a virgin, and my cherry status seemed to please a lot of fairgoers as well. I received innumerable high-fives, endless sweaty hugs and was told repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms, that being a Fair virgin was a blessing and a miracle on a par with earthly nirvana or winning the lottery. This proved true, sort of.

As a child, Yona Appletree spent his summers at the Oregon Country Fair, helping his mother sell tie-dyed clothes — and he continued to do so as he matured, manning his mother’s booth until 2010. Appletree grew up at the Fair, watching it slowly change. Now, as a computer programmer specializing in interactive art, he wants to help the OCF evolve.

Since 1969, the Oregon Country Fair has provided attendees a temporary, zany escape from reality. It has changed over the decades, but its original values and pastimes are still key to the experience. One of those constants — unbeknownst to most — is the Rich family, and for them, the Fair is not an escape from reality, but an integral part of it.

Some Oregon Country Fair mischief is part of innocent tradition, some practices are heavily frowned upon and others warrant police intervention.

Unwelcomed activity at the Fair is deterred conventionally, with law enforcement, and creatively, with a volunteer security team numbering in the hundreds.

Crashing branches, trees snapped in half, debris-littered roads — the ice storm that swept across Lane County in February left the streets a twiggy mess that took weeks, even months, to address. 

Just when the pollen haze clears out and right before the smoke from Central Oregon forest fires rolls in, the southern Willamette Valley is inundated with a different kind of summer haze: a fleet of Vanagons, Subarus and buses (VW and LTD) converging just west of Eugene in Veneta for the annual Oregon Country Fair.

Nothing says ’Merica like star-spangled hot pants. Allison Ditson flips through a stack of her handmade garter shorts and swimwear while Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” fills her warm attic studio. Fabric is draped over every nook and cranny — in stars and stripes, neons and florals, glittering golds and black mesh — making the cozy space look like the shared dressing room of Wonder Woman, Betty Grable and Katy Perry.

The godfather of glass pipes works in a bus down by the Willamette River — make that a 1940s bus and a semi trailer outfitted with several workstations. Inside the bus, torch blazing, Bob Snodgrass focuses on a golden glass mushroom inside a pendant. “I’m been working more than 20 years trying to figure out how to do the gills,” Snodgrass says, pushing and pulling rods of molten glass over the flame. “And I just got it together.” Tubes of colored glass poke out like stalagmites from every surface of the bus. Overhead, silver vents are covered with stickers stating, “I miss Jerry” and “Support Local Glassblowers.” One bumper sticker says “Thank Bob for your Snoddy.” 

Close your eyes and listen: The continuous buzz and grind of trucks biting the paved surface sounds like some glorious machine of perpetual motion. Open your eyes, and you behold a swarm of human activity — zooming bodies crisscrossing in space, as one boarder goes airborne and another perches on the berm, greedy to drop into the bowl. This is Eugene’s new WJ Skatepark + Urban Plaza, formerly the den of iniquity known as Washington Jefferson Park, where dirty hypos once hung thorny in the bushes. Like some concrete utopia risen from the dregs of urban squalor, the WJ Skatepark presents a stunning vision of realpolitik in action: The kids and the community asked for a sick place to skate, and the city and the neighborhood colluded, making it happen.

This story contains details of alleged sexual assaults that may trigger emotional distress in some readers and rape survivors. EW uses the word “alleges” not to indicate doubt in the survivor but as a legal term for when no charges have been proven in a court of law.

Conversing with Jeff Geiger is an object lesson in the power of pure enthusiasm. As artistic director of No Shame Eugene, Geiger is a tireless advocate for the sort of populist, no-holds-barred participation in art that defines his outfit, which is less theatrical troupe than a renegade vaudeville venue in which anyone can participate. No Shame Theater, as Geiger describes it, approaches the planned chaos of flash mobs, where minimal rules harness maximum creativity. “We’re much more of an intentionally community theater,” Geiger says of No Shame. “It’s chaos. It’s fun. It’s kind of like putting together a mixed tape.”

Let’s face it — we had a rough winter. OK, so maybe we didn’t weather the so-called “polar vortex,” but with two snowstorms, an ice storm of epic proportions and temperatures plummeting to below 7 degrees in December, there were plenty of “what the hell?!” moments. Now, clear your mind of all that, breathe in the warm breeze and exult in the beautiful thing that is an Oregon summer. And what a summer it is: sand castle building and rock climbing, concerts and county fairs, baseball games and a plethora of races and marathons sure to satisfy the most avid of track lovers. Fire up the barbecue because summer is here!

After an Alaskan earthquake sent a tidal wave crashing down on the Oregon coast in 1964, Cannon Beach residents decided they needed a fun event to raise spirits and bring people back to the beach. Thus, the Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest began, and 50 years later it has grown into a weekend-long, award-winning event that draws thousands out to enjoy the sun, the sea and — of course — the sand.

A muted chorus of flip-flops drags across pavement on a sweltering spring day, as scantily clad coeds make a pilgrimage toward the river, inner tubes draped like bandoleers. Gotta keep those hands free for important things, like beer. Yes, you can drink on any river in Oregon, but as to whether you should … well, as in many things, moderation is key. 

From farm to sea to garden, Oregon is an invigorating place to live if you love good, fresh food and drink. Every summer, foodies gather around the state to celebrate the bounty of our cuisine at food festivals. Here are six events worth planning mini road trips around in the summer of 2014.