Flown the Coop

Bird Woman, disillusioned, skips out on Fair this year

Shirley Musgrove is a costume designer and puppeteer, most known for her elaborate Oregon Country Fair costumes, which include a unicorn and fiery phoenix. One year, she dressed as a wolf and made people howl if they wanted a photo with her.

Musgrove first attended Fair in 1978 as a merchant with The Great Hooey Man, a puppeteer she met in her hometown of Spokane. She sold puppets and performed puppet shows for her first four years at the Fair, before spending time in New York to work with Muppeteer Jim Henson.

Musgrove has a rich history of performance, including running her own theater company in Sisters, Oregon, and studying at the American School of Mime.

Unfortunately, you won’t see this Bird Lady at Fair this year.

After trying for seven years to get hired as an official ambience artist — people who work the crowds, contributing to the atmosphere and interactivity of the Fair — she says she’s grown disillusioned with the Fair’s lack of openness for new people.

“It’s really old school,” she says. “They’ve had the same puppeteers with those giant walking puppets for 25 years. It used to be kind of cutting edge when you worked there, now I just see the same repeat people there year after year.”

Instead, Musgrove has recently applied to work for Michael Curry, an international theater puppeteer, as well as working on what she calls “Green Punk,” a series of puppets made from recycled materials.

Musgrove’s ambience, attention to detail and interactivity will be irreplaceable, but she says she may apply to be an official ambience artist again next year.

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