The Eugene Celebration: Activists at work!

Albert Kaufman

I spent this past weekend @ the Eugene Celebration in Eugene, Oregon. Here are some highlights and a short listing of some of the interesting developments that Eugene (and environs) activists are working on. I partly went to Eugene (from home in PDX) to do a little cross-pollinating - telling people about the work of groups like Depave and Keep Colwood Green and my dream of making Portland the first billboard-free city and bringing what I found in Duckland back to Stumptown.

On Saturday morning I watched as the two mayoral candidates traveled the parade. Kitty Piercy - the Dem, walked in front of an electric car with hundreds of Dem supporters - waving signs and being quite festive. The challenger (and previous two-term mayor), Independent Jim Torrey - rode on a front-loader/backhoe with a sign that said he'd fix potholes. It was like a scene out of back to the future - 1950 all over again. I watched Peter DeFazio cleaning up the slime in Washington - leading a giant slug along the street. I think Jeff Merkley, the next Senator from Oregon was there - but I didn't see him in the parade - and I wish he'd had a booth at this event - I was surprised by how little Merkley-ism I saw... Of course there was tons of Obama stuff - a great booth, also went into the Lane Co. Obama office which was within the fair area - all sorts of buttons for sale and neat t-shirt designs I'd never seen anywhere else.

Grass-roots organizing.

Some of the more interesting groups I met up with were the folks doing the Campaign to End Field Burning in Oregon campaign - organized by the Western Law Center. The folks at this booth seemed very determined to get people to sign on and are also pressuring the Governor (who seems to be on board) and next legislative session to put an end to this practice - air quality is a big issue in Eugene - they've also got a lot of paper/lumber mills as well as diesel trains that idle near the center of the City as well as a valley situation which leads to air "hanging out" or hovering over the town.

One of the more interesting groups I saw was a one called the Nobel Peace Laureate Project. These folks are trying to get money to add to a local park an installation which will be a place to walk and ponder peace. They also do outreach to local schools and help educate children about who the nobel peace prize winners are and how they won the prize.

The Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance - a regional association of businesses located in Lane County, that promotes natural food businesses through relationships, education and sustainable business practices. Also, food related was a group called Public Harvest which helps people learn how to can james, locate wild fruits and nuts, make wine and dry food. they remind me a little of Portland's Portland Fruit Tree Project.

I enjoyed the Eugene neighborhood associations booth a lot. The booth featured a map of Eugene with clearly deliniated lines for each neighborhood and n'hood association. They encouraged people to put a push-pin where they live and then below that map were stacks of cards for each n'hood association with a little info on when the group meets, where, a contact e-mail & phone number and some info about what the group is working on. I'm going to see about getting a similar presentation going for Portland n'hood associations as it looks like it would lead to more n'hood involvement.

Of course there were many environmental groups present - one of my favorite the Cascadia Wildlands Project was there - this group, The Audubon Society, Native Plant Society, Sierra Club - and many more were in attendance and it is good to know that many fine activists are out there working to protect the trees, protect other species and create marine preserves - a big push was in opposition to the W.O.P.R. - a new plan regarding BLM lands in Oregon (and the West). Take action here on this issue! Sadly, one of my favorite forestry groups was not there (or at least I didn't see them and was hoping to!) The Native Forest Council. I've been delivering their paper for years and to me it's the best and strongest words out there on NW Forestry issues.

The Oregon Toxics Alliance was present and I was pleased to see they have a campaign to educate people about idling and about why it's a bad idea to top off your gas when you fill up. they had stickers to put by your gas tank to inform gas stations not to top off cars. I'd like to figure out a way to get this information out to more Portlanders - it seems we have some good efforts from Commissioner Jeff Cogen's office and a little from the City of Portland, but my sense is that our air would be vastly improved if more people were aware of these issues and took these easy actions: turn off your car if you're going to be idling for more than 10-20 seconds, and don't top off your gas...

All in all, it was a great visit. Easy ride down with a friend, and a neat ride-share on the way home via Craig's List. I enjoyed the great art galleries, great music everywhere you turned, some good local food - seeing and munching out at the Saturday market farmer's market, making some new friends and spending time with old ones.

Thanks Eugene for being a vibrant center of great and important activism and for keeping a progressive vision going - thanks for the ideas and inspiration.

  • Kaya Singer (unverified)

    I LOVE the Eugene Celebration. I lived there when it first started. I still remember Cynthia Wooten when she was involved and all the wonderful art, community spirit and great music. I couldn't make it this year so thanks for making me nostalgic.

  • (Show?)

    Albert, you seem to have missed one nice little corner where we were talking about health care! The Eugene-Springfield chapter of the Archimedes Movement had a booth there, and informed countless people about the goings-on of the Health Fund Board and how they can participate in the Oregon Prescription Drug Plan.

    We had some great conversations and got a load of information out to the community about health care reform in Oregon!

  • Kathee (unverified)

    It was great to see you at the celebration. Fun to think of you as a little honey bee cross pollinating our communities and sharing our common goals. Keep up the great work! Kathee

  • Rose Wilde (unverified)

    And you might have missed the lovely staff and volunteers of the Bus Project, registering voters like mad! They were out late into the night, too.

    And the little Red Caboose at the end of the Peace train was hosted by Rob Handy, North Eugene Candidate for Lane County Commissioner.

    But thanks for coming down and sharing your thoughts. The Celebration is such a fine time in Eugene.

    I particularly enjoyed the roller skate clad Emerald City Roller Girls -- another match at the Fairgrounds Sept 20th!

  • admiral_naismith (unverified)

    When Eugene has its annual celebration and parade, I love to seek out a group to march with (used to be anything from the hippie fair to the library staff to some of the outlandish guerilla activists. For the past six years or so it's been the Lane County Democrats); get ready, and then hightail it to a spot a block up from the start of the parade route, then join the parade when I see my entry coming. Then I drop out a block away from the end and watch the rest of it go by. Way to have your cake and eat it, plus I get to see EVERYBODY.

    I've noticed increasing numbers of individuals who no longer bother to register floats for the parade (are there fees and hassles? I never bothered trying to get a new entry established; I just go with an existing one), but just show up and insert themselves randomly.

    My favorite is still the swarthy Mediterranean-looking guy with the handlebar mustache who always shows up in a 19th century striped men's bathing suit and running shoes and jogs laps around the parade route, weaving between all the other entries and looking like he thinks he's going for the Tour De France without a bike.

    My second favorite was a fat, happy redneck who just puttered happily down the parade route, driving a plastic beer cooler that he'd welded onto a motor scooter. No sign, no explanation, no nothing. Just a fat country boy driving a beer cooler.

    We also had the huge SCAdian guy with a kilt and a claymore whose sign proclaimed "BRAVEHEART SEZ: I'M A-VATTIN' FER O'BAMA!!!" And yes--he spelled O'bama with a ', like he's a nice Irish candidate. (Which may be right for all I know. I don't see color--I only see AMERICAN. People tell me Obama is black, and I believe them, because Republicans don't want to vote for him. But I digress).

    <lj-cut text="But wait, there's more! NOW how much would you pay?"/> There was the pirate with "Pirates for Obama--putting the Arrrr in the Democratic Party", who kept coming up to me and telling me the same Pirate joke, over and over. And there was the pro-pot legalization dude who looked like he was dressed from head to toe in fake marijuana.

    Our own entry (yes, those other political things were just the independents; ours was the official Democratic entry) had mostly local candidates and their supporters carrying candidate signs, and "Yes We Can" signs, and a few dogs with signs on their backs for "Bark Obama" (the dogs can't vote, but at least they can mark their ballots). I was pleased with the upsurge in applause, and the people yelling encouraging things as we went by.

    Other liberal floats included a smattering of individual candidates who wanted to march separately from the herd; the ACLU, and the limo of "Billionaires for Bush". The only Republican entries were the police union and the Republican candidate for mayor, who had the lamest entry of all. He was sitting in a backhoe with a couple of guys in road constriction gear, with a banner that read, "VorTorrey's Pothole Patrol". This from a man who took enough kickback money from the sand and gravel companies to fill every pothole on Barrayar. The incumbent Democrat, VorKitty, is probably going to deck me the next time I greet her by yelling "Hello, Kitty!"

    Interspersed with them were the usual Radio station publicity floats (minus the usual bad Elvis acts this time, thank God), school bands and dance teams, community outreach groups wanting publicity, the bloodmobile (minus the usual vampire gratefully sucking on an IV bag, too bad. Hope he didn't have to drop out due to unexpected clement weather), The All-Barrayar Dentists' Drill Team, the Shriners, the various immersion school floats, the community theaters in costume, the gymnastic academy float with the preeteen girls performing dizzying bar and floor feats on the back of a truck, and, of course, the Veterans' float featuring a handful of old men in wheelchairs and medals (that was the one entry that got more applause than the Democrats. As it should be).

    There was a truck from the "reflexology institute" with a big "FULL BODY MASSAGE" sign. I was scared. I don't think I want to get a full body massage from a truck. Next to the truck were two people dressed as giant feet, who periodically stopped and lovingly kneaded each others' costumes.

    Apparently Barrayar has a Buddhist temple in some hidden corner, that I don't even know about, and it is capable of producing a float of extraordinary beauty, featuring men in dazzling saffron robes and women in dazzling lilac robes, sitting in intricate gigantic lotus blossoms.

    The "Peace Train" gets new cars, each with a new sponsor every year. This year, it was accompanied by a seven foot festive penis on wheels. I think the intent was to make one of those Indian minaret towers, but what they actually created was a seven-foot festive Penis for Peace. Only on Barrayar.

    They had a WWF "Wrestling with the issues" float where people in costumes representing "creationism" and "guns" and "taxes" and "abortion" would talk trash and whale on each other. RAWR!!!

    The most creative random entry was a bunch of people dressed up as Homeland security, with trenchcoats and enormous surveillance cameras, and sometimes giant eyes for heads. They walked by aiming their eyes and cameras at the crowd, while a speaker played Every Breath You Take. Creepilicious.

    I love this parade. It's so kooky, and you get to see every normally hidden quirk and passion coming out to celebrate who they are. Lesbian choirs. Dancing dentists. Square dance and ballroom dance clubs. Roller derby queens. Gun nuts. Equestrian clubs. Service clubs. Hobby clubs. Church groups and unions and lodges. And they're all here, in one small, silly hometown.

    After the parade, I went to staff the fair's Democrats' booth and kick the ass of anyone who came to cause trouble. I needn't have worried. Every single person who stopped by was an enthusiastic Obama supporter. OH all right, I'll be honest--they weren't all enthusiastic about Obama so much as about getting the neocons OUT of the White House. But they bought buttons and donated and signed up to canvass, and registered to vote and thanked us for being there.

    I was also surprised at how I knew enough to answer most questions about VorMerkley, my Senate candidate, and his positions on issues. People would come by and ask what was his position on Special Education; I'd tell them he's in favor of it! After all, look at Bush, and how he didn't get the special needs education he needed, and how the world would have been so much better if he had. And I'd tell them about Two-Foot and our quest to get her the education she needed. Or they'd ask about health care, and I'd be all over how employer-based health insurance may have made sense in the 1950s when everyone had the same job, but not any more, now that America changes jobs and hometowns every other week, and don't get me started on the for-profit insurers who only want to insure the people who don't need coverage, Damn their oily hides! And the passers by would go, "Yes! Damn their hides!" And we would jump up and down in that there Group W booth chanting Kill--Kill--KILL and giving each other high fives and getting more time and money donations for Obama and VorMerkley. Very enthusiastic crowd. If the Barrayar corner of America is any indication, Democrats are going to have a good year in November, and a better year in 2009 when they get the chance to prove they can govern well.

    Hope you all are the same.

  • RW (unverified)

    Gusty breath of relief. Ok. So people DO understand about where I came from and am not really sorry it's true. My father regularly squires the Slug Queen on her walkabouts. Ran for Mayor of Eugene in a top hat for years, and later in full Jester regalia. We may not talk, but I'm his daughter, ehhhhhhhhh.

    THank you, from a Native who wearies of the boney carp and stinking sunperch people say about you-JEAN. I won't ever try to explain again. I'll just point 'em to your post.

  • Nadia Sindi (unverified)

    YES, I agree the Eugene Celebration was really awesome!!

    I was marching with the Lane County Democratic Party leader's Congressman Peter DeFazio & Women For OBAMA, holding my Lane County Commissioner sign 2008. I'm still in the race, running as a write in. Don't forget to vote for me in November!!

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)

    Oh yeah---Izzy's still there, too!

  • RebeccaWhetstine (unverified)

    Izzy. Mhm.

  • Nadia Sindi (unverified)

    Oh yeah! we also were "awarded the Judges know Best prize"!!! "Many enthusiastic Democratic activists joined Congressman Peter DeFazio (left) and other candidates marching in the parade. They made a real statement about the upcoming election and were awarded the Judges Know Best prize."

  • Nadia Sindi (unverified)

    Anti-racist educator Tim Wise also pointed out the double standards in his new essay "This is Your Nation on White Privilege." - form Among his many excellent points:

    White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you're being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.

    For another example of double standards, scroll down to read Anti-Racist Parent editor Tami Winfrey Harris's response to a recent New York Times blog post that criticized the Obamas for sending their daughters to a private school. As Tami says, "When black families do what white families do instinctively and routinely--somehow, it pisses people right off."-


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