The parking lot began to fill first thing Monday morning, five days before the Oregon Country Fair’s 50th Anniversary begins. Yet, there wasn’t a single one of the 45,000 expected attendees on the property. 

Instead, hundreds of volunteers hustled throughout it.

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A volunteer rakes the dirt outside of the fair’s showers. The 50th annual Oregon Country Fair will take place from July 12-14, 2019 in Veneta, Ore. (Marissa Willke/Emerald)

Artists put their final touches on carefully crafted installations, volunteers repaired and constructed stands for vendors while lifetime OCF community members ensured the infrastructure will run smoothly — and all did it with a smile. The OCF volunteers are a family who cannot wait for their annual reunion to begin.

Now, there’s only one day left before the festivities start.

“We have some special things for the 50th anniversary,” said Norma Sax, who has been involved with the fair for the past 42 years. “We wanted to bring back things that were a part of the beginning of OCF.”

Oregon Country Fair began in 1969 and has continued its weekend of celebration for 50 years. The fair will be held July 12-14 in Veneta, Oregon, just 30 minutes outside of Eugene, where a host of arts, music, performances and celebrations await attendees.

Construction for the 50th-anniversary installations began in early March. Volunteers have built stages across from “The Ritz,” a communal entertainment, shower and sauna area that will hold craft demo performances throughout the weekend. 

“People see art that they love and want to know how it’s made,” said Ardas Calhoun, a volunteer artist working on the 50th year installation.

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Giant dragons adorn the buildings in Dragon’s Meadow, which greets guests as they arrive at the fair. The 50th annual Oregon Country Fair will take place from July 12-14, 2019 in Veneta, Ore. (Marissa Willke/Emerald)

Festival-goers will be able to watch the process of how some of their favorite work at OCF is made. Artists creating live was a part of some of the first festivals, so it was integral for OCF staff to bring it back for the 50th. The stages will feature artists working on pottery, woodwork, metalsmithing and many other mediums. The main attraction will be various artists, with the contribution of attendees, working on a mobile that will forever hang on festival grounds.

“We wanted people, especially kids, to have an attachment to OCF. So every time they come back, they can see the mobile and say that they were there when it was created,” said Calhoun.

Across from the live art stage is a vibrant mosaic tile piece commemorative of four friends who had a tragic-untimely death in a plane crash. They were beloved members of the community.

“They were a group of friends who had been a part of OCF for years and we wanted to create a remembrance for them,” said Robin Marks-Fife, one of the artistic contributors to the mosaic tile. 

Above the tile piece will be four time capsules, each one representing a milestone of OCF (10, 25, 50 and 100 years). The capsules represent how far the festival has come and how far it is expected to go. The capsules will be a keepsake of the community, saved for future OCF communities to look back on.

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A mosaic tile art piece is being built to commemorate the four fair workers who were killed in a plane crash near the fairgrounds in 2012. The 50th annual Oregon Country Fair will take place from July 12-14, 2019 in Veneta, Ore. (Marissa Willke/Emerald)

OCF immerses its guests with experiences. Energy Park, which began in 1981, is an area ran completely on solar power dedicated to alternative energies and organic agriculture. Fair-goers can visit the Community Village to meet non-profits and learn about arts, health or alternative education. The fair will be rife with food and artisan crafts for purchase from more than 350 vendors.

Music will also be abundant. Phil Lesh, The Grateful Dead’s bass guitarist, will perform on the fair’s main stage — one of many performances that will happen at 19 stages peppered throughout the OCF grounds. This year at OCF there will be something to explore around every corner.

The 50th anniversary of Oregon County Fair is sure to be a weekend of immersion into Eugene culture that has been celebrated through the festival for 50 years.