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Lead Stories

On a Tuesday afternoon in the Springfield Library, a small group of science-curious “kiddos” wait for a session of the Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence (SPICE) to start. A few of the librarians and teachers hint that a celebrity may be in their midst today.

Lauren Messman

 et al.

Eugene has a lot to celebrate: flourishing restaurants and breweries, a refurbished downtown area, leadership in all things green and the friendly vibe, just to name a few. Eugeneans, give yourselves a well-deserved pat on the back. Since our city has so much to sing about, who better to help ring in another glorious Eugene Celebration than a smorgasbord of national and local musical acts? We’ve put together our list of must-see acts that love the city as much as we do.

Trains smack of progress, freedom and adventure. It’s said that railroads revolutionized America. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) touts the safety record of the rails: “In 2012, North American railroads safely delivered more than 2.47 million carloads of hazardous materials.” But sometimes trains leak, derail or just plain explode. 

Micah Griffin hopped freights for years. He knows the railyard in Eugene and the trains around Oregon like the back of his tattooed hand. But in all the times he was leaping aboard rail cars and riding across the Northwest and beyond, he hadn’t really known just what was in those big tank cars rolling through towns and past lakes and rivers. 

It happened on a typical school day with no warning. As the 7.9 magnitude earthquake started shaking the ground, students were crushed and killed inside their own schools when the buildings collapsed on top of them. According to CNN, 5,335 students died or went missing after the 2008 earthquake, with even more left disabled. While this particular earthquake happened in southwestern China, the same thing could happen in Lane County to old school buildings like Edison Elementary.

Summer is not over yet at the Eugene Public Library. For parents concerned about the school budget cuts affecting art and music programs in Eugene public schools, the library fills in a little by providing free summer programs every week for teenagers to express their talents. 

Toward the end of her eighth grade year, Phoebe Wihtol, now a junior at South Eugene High School, came out to family, friends and classmates. “I’m a lesbian,” she says. “People kind of knew. I hadn’t hidden it.”

Budget cuts have left Oregon schools in rough shape. Eugene’s 4J School District is no different. However, despite the financial challenges, many public education alternatives exist in the area. Kerry Delf, communication coordinator for 4J School District, says there is a long tradition in Eugene of supporting alternative education, and some of the most popular local programs offer language immersion at the elementary level.

Many obstacles can stand in the way of kids finishing high school and young adults going to college, but the 4J School District’s Early College and Career Options (ECCO) is out to give them both opportunities. The non-traditional school with an enrollment of 180 will be stationed within Lane Community College’s Regional Technical and Early College Center beginning this fall, giving people with a variety of disadvantages the chance to get their GEDs and move on to college.

On the first Saturday of each August, Eugeneans gather to celebrate the spirit of the Whiteaker, Eugene’s funkiest neighborhood. The Whiteaker Neighborhood itself is a whir of activity; as one of Eugene’s few mixed-use areas, it melds microbreweries, restaurants, artist communities, young folks, old folks and family life. Block Party exemplifies the beauty — be it messy or harmonious — of all that verve.

When many residents of the Whiteaker are sound asleep recovering from Block Party, volunteers will gather Sunday, Aug. 4, to clean up after the event. “We try to have the neighborhood look cleaner than it did before the party,” says Zoe Gadsby, the event coordinator. “It’s really hard to get volunteers the next day.” The work of the volunteers at the Block Party cleanup points to an even bigger community effort: picking up needles. 

Before books and magazines, newspapers and scrolls, e-readers, tablets, tabloids and texts, the spoken word reigned supreme. The oral tradition still exists in many forms, in almost all cultures, so it’s only fitting that our seven-year tradition, the Whiteaker Block Party, should collide with one so formidable.

Like most things in the Whit, the neighborhood style stands out from the common threads running through the rest of the city. The same can be said for the Whiteaker Block Party Fashion show. In years past, spectators have been privy to a no-holds-barred runway spectacle where parasols, antelope horns, corsets, guns (as accessories) and, of course, last year’s now notorious feather headdresses can all be de rigueur. This year will be no exception, with a new location at Uncle Brad’s Secret Stage at Cornerstone Glass, new designs, some new players and perhaps a new future for fashion in the Whit.

Silas Valentino

 et al.

Like any good block party, the Whiteaker Block Party has much to satisfy the aural senses — perhaps too much for one person to make sense of, and thus here are some (stage) handy picks to check out on this wet, hot American summer day and night. But be a good community member and check out all the stages — Blair Alley, Slash and Burn, Hostel, Uncle Brad’s Secret Stage, Territorial — and get to know your neighbors.

Block Party might be a blast for Eugeneans, but it’s even more exciting for the Whiteaker’s small local businesses. “This is our best sales day of the year!” a checker at Red Barn Natural Grocery said at midnight last year, the store still abuzz after its usual closing time.

Veteran Block Party food vendors agree. “It’s our single biggest one-day event all year,” says David Clark, owner of Cousin Jack’s Pasty Company. “We sell a little over 1,000 pies in one day.” This year Cousin Jack’s will serve its regular pasties — pesto lamb, steak and ale, potato leek and wild mushroom, among others — from a new setup; Cousin Jack’s will join 14 other food carts in the large parking lot at 3rd and Van Buren. Clark says the diversity of characters and “random wildness” are his favorite aspects of Block Party. “It’s just a lot happening in a very small area,” he says. “There are so many artistic people all gathered in one neighborhood.”

A week of 90-degree days is enough to make anyone break out short sleeves, but we hairless humans have it easy. Imagine, if you will, a world where the only escape from scorching summer temperatures is a full-body shave. This reality exists, and your cat lives it every time the heat bears down. Thankfully, Beth Swanzy, owner of Amazon Park Professional Pet Grooming, has your kitty’s back, and she makes the job look easy.

When your pet is sick, you visit the vet, and when your pet needs exercise, you go to the park, but where do you go when your pet needs spiritual enrichment? A Buddhist temple, of course. On July 26, a collection of sacred Buddhist relics is coming to the Saraha Nyingma Buddhist Institute, and animals are encouraged to share in the karmic riches.

Gazing into the distance like a sea captain through citrine eyes, crouched confidently atop Nate McClain’s head, is Chester, a 9-month-old ring-tailed lemur.

McClain, owner of Zany Zoo, a pet store and sanctuary in Eugene, doesn’t bat an eye. He prefers this relative calm to Chester’s more rambunctious hijinks. McClain, who keeps several Patagonian maras (something between a rabbit and a kangaroo), says, “If he gets free, he goes right for one, hops on its back and holds on — 8 seconds on a bucking bronco.”

With the growing popularity of urban farming come some concerns. What do you do with your chickens once they stop laying eggs? 

Last February, the city of Eugene adopted a new backyard farming ordinance allowing urban farmers to keep up to six chickens in their backyard, as well as other smaller barnyard animals. Lately, stories of chickens abandoned by overwhelmed urban farmers have been piling up in the national media, but Eugenean chickens can be reassured: It’s still a non-issue in this area.

Cutest Winner - Olive & Louie (ducks) 2nd place - Nugget (Chihuahua) 3rd place - Hazel the Horsedog

Best Dressed Winner - Jessi (cat in bow tie) 2nd place - Mugen (pit pull in tiara) 3rd place - Bronco Buster (Chihuahua with saddle)

Ugliest Winner - Paul (hairless cat) 2nd place - Tulip (snarling Chihuahua) 3rd place - nobody

Do spay and neuter your pet. Don’t leave your pet in a hot car. Do use an identification chip and update its information. Do report abuse or neglect. Don’t opt for cheap flea and tick medication

Pets have been popping up in art for millennia. Nearly 20,000 years ago, people of the Paleolithic era painted at least seven cats deep in the caves of Lascaux, now known as the Chamber of Felines. A fuzzy Brussels Griffon pup appears front and center in Jan van Eyck’s iconic 1434 Arnolfini wedding portrait. There’s an entire book devoted to cats and dogs in Impressionist art; Frida Kahlo painted her self-portrait with a dog and monkey (“Self Portrait with Small Monkey,” 1945) and Andrew Wyeth captures a dog snoozing on a white bed in “Master Bedroom” (1965).

Alex Notman

 et al.

There was a time when the thump thump thump of electronic dance music was confined to abandoned warehouses and private basements or tucked away deep in the Willamette Valley’s forests and mountains. Jordan Cogburn likens finding a rave in the ’90s to a scavenger hunt. Step one: Find the party’s flyer (through a friend or at a record store). Step two: Call the number.

“You’d call the number on the flyer and they’d tell you to go to this spot. You’d go over to this spot and there would be a dude waiting in a car,” says Cogburn, drummer for local bands Dirty Spoon and Breakers Yard. “He’d hand you a map and he’s like, ‘OK, you gotta go to this other spot.’ Then you’d go to this other spot. Then they’d tell you where the party was actually at. Then you’d go out to that party.” He continues, “You get there and it’s out in the sticks, out in the middle of nowhere. You’re driving up this dirt road; you can’t see anything except for what’s in your headlights. Then you get out there, you’re partying, partying, having a good time. All of a sudden the sun starts coming up and you realize you’re on a 150-foot cliff!”

Grammar be damned; there’s no such thing as “the Fair.” “Are you going to Fair?” they’ll ask you, quite correctly. “Happy Fair!” you’ll hear and say innumerably. To the uninitiated, idiosyncrasy and eccentricity abound, but all are quick to adapt.

When you give to the Fair, the Fair gives back. For starters: The first Oregon Country Fair in 1969 was a fundraiser for the Eugene Alternative School. From its very beginning, the Fair has reached out to the Fern Ridge and Veneta areas, as well as the larger community of Lane County. And with its programs devoted to philanthropy, donating a combined total of about $50,000 every year, OCF and its impact extend beyond the famed three days of summer celebration.