The Pro Turn Weird

Famous faces at the Oregon Country Fair

Sorry folks, there’s actually no definitive evidence suggesting that Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, to whom the reversed title of this story can be credited, ever made it to the Fair, but it didn’t take more than three years — after the Fair’s beginnings in 1969 — for our annual psychedelic parade in Veneta to start taking on other famous faces.

Carlos Castaneda, peyote proponent and author of The Teachings of Don Juan, was reportedly a multiple attendee to the abstruse happenings of the Fair in the early 1970s, but he wasn’t the only icon to grace OCF grounds with his presence.

In 1972, a benefit concert for the Kesey family creamery in Springfield was held off-season on OCF grounds, emceed by Ken Kesey and Merry Prankster Ken Babbs. The outdoors gig coincided with the filming of a movie for the Grateful Dead. Unfortunately the film was never released, but those in attendance certainly got yet another wicked, late-set Dead show under their belts. Apparently the creamery was in dire straits back then, and without this particular show — with its monster turnout at three bucks a head — it would probably not be the Nancy’s Yogurt franchise we know and love today.

“The Grateful Dead said it was the stark-nakedest scene they’d ever attended,” Chuck Kesey says of his then-not-so-well-to-do Creamery.

That may have been OCF’s finest hour, in all reality, but that doesn’t mean such events could never again be possible; they’re just highly unlikely. The early ‘70s were simply a different time, and maybe we’ll never get the chance to see Grace Slick, leading lady of Jefferson Airplane, dancing in a pseudo-conga line of hemp-clad hippies with a head full of acid, as she supposedly did during one of her visits. And perhaps we won’t get a chance to meet Bob Dylan or John Lennon (who only supposedly dropped by, but fuck it, we think it’s a cool piece of lore).

At the end of the day, famous people and iconic moments only serve to strengthen the Country Fair’s feel: equal, open and humane, no matter how many records you’ve released, what movies you’ve starred in or how many books you’ve published.

At the Country Fair, you’re a human being, and that’s how you’ll be treated. As Castaneda used to say, “I like to walk the fair to be with humanity again.”

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