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Longtime Oregon Country Fair Coordinator Takes On New Role

Kira Hoffelmeyer

This weekend the Oregon Country Fair marks its 47th year, a near-half century of music, body paint, and environmentally-friendly counterculture.  Roughly 50,000 people are expected to show during the three-day event, west of Eugene.  KLCC’s Brian Bull visited with a longtime coordinator of the fair, who’s just taken on a new role.

After 20 years of being involved with the event, Norma Sax has ascended to a new throne.

Sax: “Yeah, this is a giant Adirondack chair. I don’t know dimensions, so I couldn’t tell you how big it is, but it kinda feels like Alice in Wonderland, like she took a little pill and it made her smaller.”

Okay, not really a throne and not really tied to Sax’s new title…but if the chair’s any indicator, she has a sizable responsibility.  For 20 years Sax was an administrative assistant for the fair.  But this year she’ll be the event’s bookkeeper…an important job given that the Oregon Country Fair generates 9 million dollars in revenue according to a 2009 University of Oregon Study.  

Sax feels there’s far more to spread than just dollars, though.

Sax: “The relationships that people build here with each other, the feeling that… we’re all together.  Friendship and love, I really do think that’s the most important part.  And that we spread that…y’know, if we feel it, we can spread it on the planet, and make the planet better.”

With her wavy silver hair and red high-top sneakers, Sax demonstrates both seniority and a kid-like demeanor that speaks to the history and culture that characterizes the event.  She’s reclined comfortably in the giant chair, here in the newest area of the fair site.  Sax points to an oversize wheelbarrow behind her.  A little girl scales the chair’s footrest.  

Credit Brian Bull

Sax: “We know it’s going to be very, very popular with people climbing, like this little one, here.  That kids going to love climbing on this, they’re just going to have a blast.  The wheelbarrow that you see over there, last year they were climbing all over that so this is like kid heaven, with the chair and the wheelbarrow.”

Reporter:  I’m gonna guess that grownups are gonna have fun climbing all over it too, for that matter.”

Sax: “I’m enjoying it.”  

Sax says during the event, she’ll be hanging out mainly at the main stage catching acts like The Everyone Orchestra and Afrolicious, and maybe the dance pavilion.  Sax says what everyone needs to do to have a good time at the Oregon Country Fair is simply participate.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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