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Think Out Loud

Self-Expression Shines At The Oregon Country Fair

Pete Springer/OPB

Lucy Kingsley was 22 in 1969 when she went to a small Renaissance Fair near Veneta, Oregon intended as an alternative school fundraiser. She says although lots has changed since that small event grew into what’s now the three-day Oregon Country Fair, the values of the festival haven’t. The self-expression, acceptance and community she found there has kept her coming back every year since. 

In the years since 1969, Kingsley’s worn many hats at the fair, including her current stint on the board and 35 years as the “mother” of its lost and found. (Ask her about the live bunny someone left behind.)  

Here are some scenes from that first year of the fair:

Here are some photos from this year’s fair:

Photos by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone/OPB

The 44-year-old festival is eclectic, to say the least. It’s got 19 stages where music, spoken word, and children’s programs unfold. Puppeteers on stilts, unorganized parades of every stripe, and painted, winged and otherwise costumed fairgoers wend their way around the grounds. Musical acts from the main stage are routinely broadcast from public radio station KLCC.

If there’s one unspoken commandment of the fair, it might be: express yourself. Here’s a piece by Oregon Art Beat that attempts to capture some of the elements that make the fair unique.

We’ll find out how the iconic Oregon event has changed over the years and what might lie ahead. 

Editor’s note: This show will be simulcast at noon on OPB Radio and KLCC. If you have an Oregon Country Fair story to share or question to ask, you can call in during the show. The number is: 1-888-665-5865. And if you’ll be “at fair” Friday, join us at the Dragon Plaza at noon to share your experience or just listen and watch the show live. 

What are your memories from the Oregon Country Fair? What do you look forward to when you go? What questions do you have for organizers or fairgoers?


arts and culture music oregon country fair

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