Culture Shock @ the Oregon Country Fair

The Oregon Country Fair happens annually in July just outside of Eugene, OR. I wonder why it’s not officially called, “The Cascadian Country Fair”?

Are we even in America anymore, Toto?

Reverse Culture Shock might be more accurate, which is an eerily surreal feeling I first felt when I came home from Madagascar after Peace Corps.

And then I felt it again at Country Fair.

Reverse Culture Shock: The surreal sensation of wonder, when asking, “Is this the same place I came from?”

At Country Faire, it hit me: there actually is a fundamentally different culture out here.

(We’re from the Midwest).

The vivacious tent canopy in the Chela Mela Meadow

So, First Fair! And you know what they say about your first time.

My partner, Micayla & I, just transplanted ourselves to Eugene last November (the month the election Happened.)

We came via wagon across the Oregon Trail ….

… I mean, we drove a Civic over the Cascadian Mountains, from Kansas City, Missouri (also known as “the middle of merica”).

Up through the snowy expanse of Alberta, Canada, we took the northern route for 5 weeks on our journey West, mere days ahead of the coming winter. Missing blizzards by the skin of our teeth.

Our wagon would not have survived a blizzard. (…. I mean, my Civic didn’t have snow tires.)

From my journal:

” As we journey through the Far North, my stalwart Canadian companion, the proud polar bear, experiences no fear that Winter is Coming, pounding on the gates of The Wall they are preparing to erect in the south.”

(I have a flair for the dramatic.)

Thus, we hunkered down in the Land of Canada on the Day the Election Happened.

(That’s supposed to sound ominous, like M. Shyamalan’s movie title, “The Happening.”)

So that was November, 2016. And here’s a fact: In November, it’s f*cking cold in Canada. Whisky freezes if you leave it in your trunk overnight.

“Gotta escape the cold!” exclaims I. “Or I’m going to drink all the Canadian Anti-Freeze!” (Great term for Canadian Whisky, don’t you think? No, I’m not a fan of the taste.)

So, onward ho!
South we go!
To Oregon!

Then we found Eugene  …. or should I say, Cascadia?

The energy, the vibe, the mentality, the ideology … quite unique.

Eloquent, civil, compassionate, intelligent, mindful.

Stumbling upon Eugene felt like stepping out of Tardis (from Dr. Who) into a world of self-aware individuals with an moral compass pointing to ethical living. A world where women (and men) don’t have to put on a mask everyday to go to work (in the form of make-up or macho mentalities, too often the norm in middle-merica.)

The mindset of the people here is self-aware, conscious. Brilliant kids these days use the term “Woke.”

There’s a tangible and measurable emphasis on local business and commerce, which is viable and thriving.

Strolling around downtown, culture shock set in the first evening.

“Are we even in America anymore, Toto?” I asked.

In America, at best there is tolerance. Yet acceptance, and embrace of gender differences, ideological differences, and heck, even the awakening out of the “9-to-5 hive mind” is a tide that’s just barely begun to rise in the midwest.

When we found Eugene, I felt like I had found a place to seek refuge for those of us (dare I call us refugees?) seeking polical (or at least ideological) asylum from what’s been happening in Merica.

Woke Cities, like Bicycle Friendly Cities, could be a designation.

Eugene is a “Woke City.” Like the Dark Sky City designation, or Bike Friendly Cities. Woke Cities. Why not? I’d vote to designate that honor upon Eugene.

That’s the Culture Shock Micayla & I have been experiencing since moving here from Kansas City.

Country Faire, tho! All the very real differences between the cultures of Merica and Cascadia were on proud display at Country Fair.

And experiencing the fair really made it set in: Reverse Culture Shock. The morning after, I’m feeling that eerily surreal sensation for the second time in my life.

From Kansas City to …. seriously? Blown away. (It would be too cliche to say over the rainbow).


The Official Flag of Cascadia. The Green, White and Blue.

I saw my first ever Cascadian Flag at Country Fair. I’ve seen them in the computer-Facebook-land before, but here it was, in the cloth, the proud evergreen standing proud between “The White, Blue and Green.”

And the Capital of Cascadia? Country Fair?

All I know is, there’s something in the water in Eugene. The proof’s in the chocolate pudding I ate at Country Fair.


Tom Tortorich is an author, speaker and podcaster

Tom & Micayla’s podcast is:

“The Solution Revolution: How to save the world in 6 days.”

(6 days is a metaphor for 6 generations.)

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