Ambiance performers Risk of Change at OCF 2022. Photo by Todd Cooper.

Fair Games

From flea circuses to stand-up comedy, the Oregon Country Fair has entertainment for everyone

While it’s possible to enjoy the experience as a whole, saying  “I love the Oregon Country Fair” does raise the question: Which one? 

OCF offers music, food, vendors, community and a portal to a whimsical place where it’s always 1969 and elves and fairies are real. Visitors are drawn by more than just music, however. There’s also spoken word, vaudeville, dance, comedy and more, with ambiance entertainers on the paths, delighting passersby. 

Michelle Fitz has been the vaudeville coordinator at OCF since 2001. “OCF has over 20 stages with world-renowned performers to entertain us,” Fitz tells Eugene Weekly in an email. Four stages, she says, have a mix of everything from juggling and aerial acts to bubble blowing, magic, rope lassoing, spoon playing and Middle Eastern dance and music. 

Lisa Shanahan, meanwhile, is the OCF ambiance entertainment coordinator. This year, she says, OCF has nearly 175 artists in a category she calls spontaneous, interactive, collaborative and magical. “When the kaleidoscope of these artists coalesces with the fairgoers,” she adds,  “you never know what unique, moving, living collage of art and experience will happen, but you do know it will always be incredible.”

Referring to that overall Fair experience, Shanahan says, “Gathering together for art, music, movement, good food, artisan crafts and playing dress-up in special costumes with the sole intention of throwing ourselves into pure revelry is a tradition that transcends times in history and places all over the world.” The ambiance path, in particular, she says — which this year includes a performance from Eugene’s electro swing breakouts High Step Society with the groundbreaking clowning troupe Fou Fou Ha! — “is a central part of the heart, the soul, the quintessential experience of the Oregon Country Fair.”

Leapin’ Louie. Photo by Miri Stebivka.

David Lichtenstein, who performs as Leapin’ Louie, is a Eugene native who says he’s appeared at OCF since the mid-1980s. Since then, Lichtenstein has covered different topics in his performances. Last year, Leapin’ Louie did a storytelling show about his family and its 100-year history of draft dodging and war avoidance, Lichtenstein says. 

At OCF this year, “I plan to do a biodiversity comedy-circus show with an educational element,” he says, called Fly Through Time with Leapin’ Louie

“All my shows,” Lichtenstein adds, “are stuffed with comedy, cowboy tricks and circus stunts for fun.” Catch Leapin’ Louie on several vaudeville stages; showtime varies.

Rhys Thomas, the man behind JuggleMania, is also among the vaudeville performers, performing at 2:30 pm each day at Monkey Palace. “JuggleMania is itchin’ to present the resurrected remains of a 140-year-old flea circus,” Thomas says, previewing the show. “Orphaned by COVID, the Alberti Flea Circus was rescued by OCF poet Chris Chandler, who smuggled it cross country on a Greyhound.” The flea circus, Thomas adds, will be accompanied by his typical antics as he attempts to “turn your neurons into far-outs.”

For some comedy, Eugene-based stand-up comics Rudy Tyburczy and Devin Jones present Fairly Legal: Standup Comedy Game Show at noon July 14 at Spirit Tower and 2 pm the next day at Chez Rays. “We will have comedians from around the Northwest performing comedy sets,” Tyburczy says, “and a fun Q&A section before they perform. There will also be fair-related challenges during their sets, he adds, including “Wall of Hugs,” “Itta Ritta’s” and “Happy Hecklers.” 

For a complete lineup of Oregon Country Fair vaudeville and ambiance performers as well as a complete list of all stages, go to or pick up the Peach Pit program guide available at local businesses, including Eugene Weekly.