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The Oregon Country Fair: Rooted in Philanthropy

OCF logo

Meeting Date: July 18, 2014

Air Date: July 21, 2004

In 1969 in an apple orchard outside of Eugene, a handful of local people held a benefit for Children’s House, a community alternative school. That philanthropic event, billed as the Renaissance Faire, grew into the Oregon Country Fair (OCF). In the decades since, the Fair has been incorporated as a nonprofit organization with thousands of volunteers and six employees. Every July, hundreds of entertainers, performers, and handcraft artisans come together to co-create a lively festival.

The Fair’s philanthropic mission has similarly grown over the years, helping spread the Fair’s vision of a better world to the larger community. The Fair’s grant and endowment programs help community programs beyond the three-day event that reflect the Fair’s mission and values. These values include youth development, arts education and cultural vitality, environmental stewardship and sustainability, and basic human needs and social justice.

The Oregon Country Fair has evolved into a rare gem: a self-sustaining arts and cultural festival that gives back to the community year-round.

Leslie Scott was OCF’s General Manager in 1992–2008. In that role, she developed partnerships and collaborations that brought the Green Ticket program and green and sustainable practices to OCF events. She championed and formalized OCF’s philanthropic program. Every August, She continues her work as Camp Manager for the Fair’s teen camp, Culture Jam, which she helped found in 2000. For the decade 2003–2013, she taught Event Management at the UO, focusing on the social value of events to individuals and communities. She chaired Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy’s Bold Steps in Sustainability Award Committee and volunteers with the Future Peacemakers project of the Northwest Institute for Conflict Resolution. She is currently President of the Board of Tamarack Aquatic Center in Eugene.

Suzi Prozanski is working on a sequel to Fruit of the Sixties and has interviewed more than 300 Fair participants to document OCF’s history. Her research inspired her to serve on the Fair’s Jill Heiman Vision Fund committee. She has attended the fair since moving to Eugene in 1984, and beginning in 1990, she and her husband, Oregon State Senator Floyd Prozanski, have been OCF volunteers. Suzi has volunteered for the Info Crew and the OCF newsletter, “The Fair Family News.” She has more than 20 years of experience as a journalist at the Houston Post and The Register-Guard in Eugene and taught at the UO’s School of Journalism and Communication.

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