Just a few weeks back on a hot Friday morning, I stood in a field with outgoing Oregon Country Fair general manager Charlie Ruff and his replacement, Tom Gannon, the three of us surveying the “New Area,” a 6-acre expanse that opens this year as a brand new part of the Fair’s general stomping grounds.
“This is going to be a great space,” Ruff said of the former camping space that’s been annexed to the southern bulb of the Fair’s legendary “figure eight” geography, just southwest of Chela Mela Meadow. It was five years in the making, this eponymous new area, requiring a vast migration of campers and lots of planning, legwork and construction. “It’s a natural place to expand,” Ruff said, noting the line of sight that runs from one end of the meadow to the other.
In Ruff’s vision, the New Area is at once dynamic and tranquil, spacious and teeming with possibility. For the first time ever, the Fair will offer a movement arts program, featuring a flow zone with hula hoops, poi and such, as well as a Dance Pavilion where folks will be able to watch all manner of troupe performances — folk, salsa, tango — as well as participating in dance workshops.
Other features of the New Area include a standing piano parlor, a dining area with five food outlets, craft booths and another White Bird medical outpost and info booth. And, as a nod to the general manager’s service, there is even a Ruff Road, running behind the area’s Steward Ship and Visionary Lounge.
According to Ruff, the grassy space is also designed for “dynamic change” and “maximum flexibility,” meaning that, along with the permanent structures, it will also host art installations that rotate annually.
“It’s a big open area where you can spread out and at the same time still feel like you’re part of ‘the eight,’” Ruff told me, noting that access to a whole new area might relieve crowding in the afternoon. “You’re still in the Fair, but it allows people to stretch out and it allows us to stretch out.”
The addition of a verdant chunk of real estate isn’t the only thing debuting this year at Oregon Country Fair. For the first year ever, the LGBTQI community will have its own official hub in Community Village. Housed in the Peace & Justice booth, Rainbow Village will offer a safe hub for the community as well as providing resources, workshops, “playshops” and info about various LGBTQI events during Fair.
Coordinator Oblio Stroyman says “the ultimate vision for Rainbow Village is for it to become its own booth with enough room to provide a safe space for LGBTQI-identified people to gather inter-generationally, educate one another and the Fair, and create change.”
And, as of July 1, legal recreational weed in Oregon is also new. Does that mean we can all toke out like it’s 1972? “Nothing changes in our policy around the event,” according to Ruff. “We’re a drug- and alcohol-free event. We’re going to be consistent with the law of Oregon, and that’s where we’re at.”
’Nuff said, Ruff.
The Oregon Country Fair runs Friday through Sunday, July 10-12; for a full schedule and lineup of events, visit oregoncountryfair.org.