My Northwest Roots This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

May 8, 2009
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Tie-dye, peace signs, patchouli oil, the Grateful Dead and tofu: that's how I was raised. In the midst of my eccentric upbringing, one spectacle every summer remained constant – the Oregon Country Fair (OCF). On their website, OCF defines itself as an annual festival that “creates events and experiences that nourish the spirit, explore living artfully and authentically on earth, and transform culture in magical, joyous and healthy ways.” In layman's terms, it's a wonderfully large bohemian love fest, swarming with vegans, artwork and dreadlocks. Started in 1969, it is the longest running counter-culture event of its kind in America.

My father has had a booth there selling jewelry since before I was born, and consequently I have spent one exhilarating week of every summer in that vast Oregon forest. Located just outside Veneta, the fair is cushioned by the lush woodland landscape of the Willamette Valley at the foothills of the Coast Range. If the dense woods and the too-green-to-be-true meadows aren't enough, the Long Tom River runs alongside the festival site. In the past the river was known for its low levels of cleanliness, but local conservationists and radical hippies have transformed it into a salmon sanctuary.

Each year, as I arrive at the festival and sit in our car for an indefinite amount of time waiting to be directed to a parking lot, I can't help but feel as if I'm home. All the ­familiar ingredients in that OCF elixir seem to beckon to me: the friendly painted faces, the hay bales, the international cuisine, the solar ovens and everything in extreme. Every year brings a new adventure, but it is always characterized by the same elements.

Walking in through the front gate, I am inevitably greeted by the usual scene: families, draped in hemp clothing, running amok while setting up their booths, the lady at the ticket desk wildly waving her purple feather boa as she yells like a carnival barker to the next person in line, and the man who casually walks down the dirt path wearing nothing but a lanyard.

For one glorious weekend, anything goes. I am free to behave, dress, articulate and believe as I please. My usual fair attire consists primarily of brightly colored dresses or skirts carefully accessorized with a scarf or various pieces of jewelry, accompanied by bare feet or, on occasion, a pair of cowboy boots. I spend my days gamboling down dirt paths, ingesting lavish amounts of Greek and Indian food, engaging in pleasant conversation with strangers and participating in free-verse poetry showcases. In my many years of winding through those beguiling trails, the Oregon Country Fair has woven itself into my natural disposition, creating a certain temperament that I carry with me wherever I go – an open mind, a big heart, eagerness to learn and no inhibitions. That's how I live.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Ally25 said...
Feb. 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm
This isen't bad...keep writing.
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