Shifting Sand Castles

Summer events in Lane County will be a dizzying ride of COVID protocols and categories

Turning page after page of Eugene Weekly’s last Summer Guide issue is a remarkable journey of how diverse the entertainment tastes were in Lane County.

There were races and running events, fairs and festivals, outdoor art gatherings, rodeos, indoor and outdoor theater, camps for almost anything kids are interested in, as well as Eugene Emeralds baseball games.

And there was music. Oh, there was music of all stripes. Garth Brooks at Autzen Stadium. Cuthbert Amphitheater with a full slate. The Shedd had its production of Damn Yankees. There was the Oregon Bach Festival. Sam Bond’s, Sessions and other venues were running at full speed.

The year was 2019 B.C. (before COVID), and it was amazing.

2020 was a virus-driven hell, and that was the first time in anyone’s memory EW didn’t have a Summer Guide issue. But as COVID is slowly letting up we are trying again with the 2021 Summer Guide, complete with listings, stories and pictures to whet the appetite for entertainment during the long days and short nights of summer.

None of it, of course, is etched in stone. Think of it as a shifting sand castle.

The deck chairs of scheduling, already in disarray this spring when Lane County was moved to high risk and then extreme risk categories, continues into the summer. This spring alone, two Lane County summer institutions — the Oregon Country Fair and OBF — bowed to the months-long logistical challenges of planning and decided to go virtual.

Those same logistical challenges — how to spread everyone out in a pandemic — exist for other high-volume events scheduled to take place, notably the Lane County Fair (July 21-25), the Junction City Scandinavian Festival (Aug. 12-15), the Butte to Butte road race (Aug. 22) and Art and the Vineyard (Sept. 10-12). 

The Maude Kerns Art Center, which runs Art and the Vineyard, and organizers for the Butte to Butte run made the pre-emptive move away from their annual July 4 holiday events to what they hope to be more forgiving dates later this summer.

Will restrictions continue to ease and see Lane County at low or moderate risk on those dates, or any scheduled date?

The calendar is relentless, as is the roller-coaster nature of our going from one risk category to another. The organizers for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials (June 18-27) have discovered this, too. 

The new Hayward Field, with its grand phallus on Agate Street, opened in 2020 and it has hosted meets in front of a smattering of spectators. Trials organizers had already refunded tickets with no assurance that ticket holders will be able to repurchase tickets under a new, very limited seating plan, but that changed over Memorial Day weekend with the announcement of vaccinated and unvaccinated seating sections.

That new seating plan, an expanded version of “pod seating,” could be the rule for venues ranging from Cuthbert to WildCraft Cider Works to the Hult Center and its 10×10 series. If, of course, they happen.

Everything is up in the air.

With a growing number of vaccinations, summer 2021 might be a touch better than summer 2020, but the situation is fluid. There may be some down times, and like everyone, event organizers and patrons will be paying strict attention to COVID numbers the same way anyone else paid attention to weather reports pre-COVID.

Still, after a year’s hiatus, EW’s Summer Guide issue is back. Just remember, none of it is etched in stone. Think of it as a castle of shifting sand.