Sunday, July 17, 2011

Singing in the Rain - The First Montavilla Street Fair

July...the middle of July, and one would think that Portland would finally be ensconced into summer.  One would think that the middle of July would be a wonderful time to have the first Montavilla Street Fair, and that we would saunter down the streets, enjoying various food booths, savoring the visual arts of our local artists and craftspeople, and that we could mingle with our neighbors and listen to good music under sunny skies. 

One would think so....but, this is Portland...and it rained.  Hard.  Yet in true Portland fashion, we enjoyed it anyway.  We closed a couple of streets, set up the tents, wore our boots and slickers, pulled out our umbrellas...and had a great time.
Live music abounded (Stargazie is featured in the photo above, at the 79th Avenue stage)

At left is Schmidt's Body Care Products, one of the many vendors with tents on the street.

Did I mention that it rained? 

Occasionally a tent needed to release some of the rainwater that pooled  in the edges and folds, resulting in a cascade of proportions that would be at home in the mountains or the Columbia River Gorge.  Here Arnon of Bridgetown Forge clears his tent.  Bridgetown Forge makes the best knives, utensils and fabulous artwork, among other things.
Music here is provided by an assortment of artists, again at the 79th Avenue Stage (though the rain forced them to move into the space offered by Portland Garment Factory.  If anyone knows the name of this group, please let me know.)

The lovely and ebullent Nicole of Union Rose, one of the many unique and wonderful shops on SE Stark, where one can find the latest in fashions and accessories.The parking space behind Bipartison Cafe and beside Portland Garment Factory became another space for vendors as well as a beer and wine garden.

 Dancing Earth Massage provided free 5-minute massages.
 Face-painting for kids (and adults too, I suppose) was available.

 Of course, there is an election around the corner, and here we have Mayor Sam Adams on the left speaking with local residents, while Eileen Brady, a candidate for Mayor visits with prospective voters on the right (and no, that is NOT a reflection of their political leanings.  After all, Portland's mayoral race is non-partison.)

Mayor Adams paid a visit to the Montavilla Farmers Market, which formed the western end of the street fair.  Here he is pictured with the Market staff, board members and volunteers.  Yes...he is indeed wearing one of the Market shirts.  Way to go, Sam!

 Mayor Adams having a serious discussion with Gretchen, the Market manager.

 At the 78th Avenue portion of the Street Fair, one could learn all about Zipcar from these lovely ladies.  (If anyone knows their names, please let me know.)

Mayoral candidate Eileen Brady with Chris and Kate Harback.  Kate is the Board Chair for the Montavilla Farmers Market.  Here is a link for Eileen's campaign web site:

Eileen Brady pictured with Beth Kluvers, who is the Board Treasurer for the Montavilla Farmers Market and also sits on the Board of the Montavilla East Tabor Business Association (METBA), who put on the Street Fair.  (Yes, Beth does look a little wet.  We really do have umbrellas at home, and yes, they don't do any good there.)
Salon 419, which is located on SE 81st Avenue, weaves feathers into one's hair.  I thought about it, but I was told I didn't have enough hair to have it done.  I was disappointed. 

 The end result of the feather weave is really quite attractive, as these three lovely young women show.

"But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!"  We also had Shakespeare in the street.  A troupe of actors from Milepost 5 presented a 15-minute dramatization from Romeo and Juliet.  Here Juliet is in the garden, while Romeo watches from a distance.

"Oh swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon that monthly changes in her circled orb..." as Juliet speaks to Romeo.

 Mia sports an ear piece fashioned by her daughter Lilith
METBA Board treasurer Beth Kluvers and Board Chair Dokken Ramsey (who owns Montavilla Wellness Center on SE Stark and 78th Avenue).  Many thanks to them and all of the people who made this first Street Fair so much fun.  

For more information about METBA and the Fair, here is a link:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Faeries, Hobbits and Gnomes...Oh My! A Day at the Oregon Country Fair

One of the items on my bucket list was to experience the Oregon Country Fair.  Lest ye think that I am speaking about farm animals, carnival rides and baking contests...think again.  This is a slice of Oregon culture that occurs every year on the second weekend in July, near the town of Veneta, about 15 miles west of Eugene.  Started in 1969 by Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead at a location in Eugene, it has grown to an event that plays host to more than 40,000 people over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday it is held.  I could wax on about this, but I will let you read for yourself at a couple of websites: and

Remember what I said about Oregon's "culture"?  Perhaps counter-culture is a more accurate term, and so it was as we entered through the gate...and into another world.

At the original fair held 42 years ago, fairgoers were asked to wear costumes (remember, this was the tail end of the "Sixties", the era of Woodstock, Oregon's own Vortex...and of course, the Vietnam War and associated protests).  The costume tradition has continued, and perhaps even blossomed into something truly you will see in the following images. 
Upon walking into this new world, our first encounter was with this...tall wolf. Apparently a friendly one who seemed unthreatening to the youngsters.

Children are very much a part of this fair experience and there was no shortage of things to do for them.  Everything from crafts to games and even strategically placed sanctuaries where one can nap. 

Of course, what little girl doesn't secretly want to be a fairy? 

...and don't many of us have a child within, wanting to express that same desire we had when we were little?

Perhaps the idea that one can become something different than what one is during the rest of the year is one of the appealing aspects of the fair?  When one considers what the "real world" seems to offer at times, why not?

Man has always been fascinated by fantasies and mythical creatures.  Look at the popularity of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings...and yes, we saw a few Frodos.

Aside from the visual treats one enjoys just watching other people, there were many venues offering entertainment.  Here is a juggling act (with knives) over four men forming a table by interlocking themselves in a square. 

The visual treats never ceased.  Butterflys and fairies were the most popular for women (like the one on the right, in black), and men seemed to favor leather kilts (on the left, walking behind the butterfly)

Hairstyles was yet another form of expression.  Green hair (or hairpiece) as is on the right seemed the norm for the weekend, but I did find the stacked "do's" like the one on the right pretty amazing.
Another venue offered pirate skits...and yes, somehow pirates did not seem incongruent at all.  We sat in on various speakers, some serious and some comical, and I especially enjoyed some of the poetry readings.
This couple would dance to music, only to suddenly stop in a frozen pose, until...yep, you guessed it.  Someone put some money in the basket and the music magically started again.  I thought these two were pretty cute.
Here is a hula dancer accompanied by a banjo...sort of the antithesis of dueling banjos.

This fair maiden somewhat epitomized so much of the fair...the flowers, the dress, the cape or robe..a carefree attitude.

This one fascinated us...and I'm not sure why??  (wink)  Perhaps it was the leather chaps missing the seat, or the sequined panties?  Maybe it was the purple hair topped with a sailor's cap.  We stood for a long time trying to decide if she was really a he (yes, there was definitely some gender bending going on)

What fair isn't complete without some body paint?  While most went with designs on their faces, there were some who chose paint as a covering rather than those pesky fabrics...clothes can be so confining!  Joking aside, it was pure delight at the lengths people went to express themselves.  I think the freedom to decorate, to dress and to "be" to their heart's desire is both exhilerating and refreshing.

 ne of the biggest draws are the hundreds of craft booths throughout the fair, with everything from pottery to jewelry to musical instruments, such as the hand-carved guitar above.  The artwork was amazing.

A recurring theme is to dress as one wants, limited only by one's imagination.  Even some of the men that guided us to our parking spot when we arrived were dressed in...dresses. 

Yet underneath this playfulness is a deep commitment to being green, which was a hallmark of the fair from the very beginning 42 years ago.  Preparations for the fair begin a week before with cleanup from the previous winter's floods of the nearby Long Tom River (as it does every year), and much of the work is done by volunteers.  Much of the food is local and organic (and yes, meat was available...I was happy!), and the plates, cups and silverware are all washed and reused.  There is very little waste that enters the landfill.

Scattered throughout the fair are signs, with quotes or sayings...some pithy, some funny, and then some that seem at first to be somewhat non-sensical...until one ponders it a little more.  The one above took a little bit to sink in for me, especially in light of what seems like general wackiness and play...and much of that certainly is, but there is a touch of truth as well.  Despite what we look like, or how we try to portray ourselves and make each of us distinct from one another, we are basically related. 

We went into this experience without any pre-conceived notions and certainly without prejudices (or as much as we possibly can, given our human nature).  I came away with a new appreciation for not taking ourselves very seriously.  This was indeed pure delight...and a little magical. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fun, Food and Faces...Another Market Chef Demo

As you regular followers of this blog have certainly already figured out, one of the things I regularly follow (or as regular as my schedule allows) are the Montavilla Farmers Market Chef Demonstrations.  Each week the market has a chef from a local restaurant or other culinary institution give a demonstration of a meal, usually based on produce and food available at the market on that day. 

Today's demo is by Paul Losch, of DOC, an Italian restaurant in SE Portland.  (  Paul will be making a summer vegetable salad with feta cheese and salsa verde...procured right here at the market, of course.

Paul's "Sous Chef" is Michael, who grates, crushes and cuts while Paul describes how to prepare the ingredients.  (Many of the market demo chefs would love to have a sous chef to help during the demo, so if you are interested in working with a local chef, contact Erin, the Market Volunteer Coordinator at

Chef Paul mixes the ingredients into a visual and aromatic treat (we could smell the basil as he cut it for the verde sauce).  This is called Jardinière with Feta and Salsa Verdé.  (Go to the Market web site for the recipe...believe me, it's delicious!!

Of course, it isn't always about food.  Our senses also include hearing, and today we were treated with the lovely sounds of Renee Castiglioni's accordian...I hope that's the proper name for her instrument?  Please let me know if there is a better name. 

One of the joys of taking photos of the market is watching little dramas unfold that would otherwise be missed as we pore over produce or other wares.  Renee's music caught the attention of one young listener who seemed especially taken with her.  Renee coaxed him closer as she knelt down (no small feat, apparently, as she still played her medley). 

She finally coaxed the boy over, who even reached out and touched the magical instrument (or it certainly seemed so to him).

One of the market's vendors is Sino Baking, who make a delicious cheesebread called Paobread with a recipe that comes from Brazil (  Of course, how could anyone refuse a sample from the delightful and smiling Courtney.