After Galen Carpenter became the first female mayor of Veneta in the 1990s, she created a campground for the Oregon Country Fair.
A former full-time teacher, Carpenter spent time on the Veneta City Council before she ran for mayor and won. She then teamed up with former Fair manager Leslie Scott to form a collaboration between the Fair and the community.
One year during OCF, Carpenter remembers, traffic was backed up for miles and many people didn’t have a place to camp. She thought of Zumwalt Campground, which was owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and was leased by the county. The city supported her request, and a campground for Fairgoers was created.
At the campground, attendees were provided with basic services and transportation to and from the Fair. During the campground’s first year, Carpenter and other volunteers thought they could host 800 campers, but maxed out at 1,200.
“It started a progressive collaboration between the city and the Fair,” Carpenter says.
Additionally, the proceeds from the campers went back to the city — specifically, the parks and recreation department. The campground has been largely successful ever since.
“I camped out there probably 10 years,” Carpenter says. “You have the lake, the sunset, and you can see the Three Sisters.”
After volunteering for the city of Veneta for nine years, Carpenter moved to New Mexico and taught on the Navajo reservation. She has since retired in Colorado. Carpenter’s son continues to volunteer every year, and Carpenter herself hopes to attend this summer.