Damn the Man – Eugene, Oregon Travel Guide

Silver Statue

The silver man is one of many performers who perform at the Market. In his case, his performance is to be stone-still, like a real statue.

The Eugene Saturday Market. You’ve got to see it to believe it. While the majority of the world came to terms with the fact that the 70s were over, say, when the 80s began, there are still certain folks in Eugene who just refuse to believe it. And every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., April to Thanksgiving, these tie-dye clad, patchouli-scented love children amass into a melting pot of hippie culture between 8th and Oak in downtown Eugene, where the socially unacceptable are accepted and the socially accepted are not.

The Market first opened in 1970, due to the large number of artisans around town and the public’s general interest in purchasing locally made goods. “Market,” as it is now so lovingly referred to by its liberal patrons, is a bazaar of local vendors selling their homemade creations, whether they be moccasins, necklaces or corn on the cob to their consumer Eugene counterparts.

On its rainy grand opening some 31 years ago there were only 29 vendors and one volunteer coordinator, but apparently they did something right because it has since survived three very distinct decades and has been known to house over 300 vendors and two dozen exotic and international food booths.

Singers

At one end of the parallel rows of food vendors, the Market’s main stage hosts many musical acts during the day.

Nevertheless, the Market has had its share of challenges as well, including the opposition from established downtown merchants and recognizable resentment for deviating from typical retail merchandising methods. It has also been publicly criticized within the Eugene community for not having to pay downtown taxes. However, despite the city’s love-hate relationship, the Market continues to be one of the community’s largest attractions and local events.

“Market is one of the few places left that is an actual free market,” said Ann Schwartz, a Market vendor who sells custom etched glass and glassware. Like many of the vendors at the Market, Schwartz owns her own business outside of the Market community but returns to the scene every Saturday to advertise her handiwork.

Arts and crafts aren’t the only goods being hawked at the Saturday Market however. Anything and everything is sold here, just as long as it’s homegrown, organic and smells kind of funny. For example, it just might be the only place in the world where one can get a five-grain hemp burger, some unsolicited spiritual advice and a back massage – all within a 100-foot radius.

Only in Eugene

…and as autumn sets in, it will be mainly rain from here on out…

To say the very least, the Market is definitely entertaining, especially if you’re an out-of-towner and/or a fan of Corporate America. On any given Saturday you are likely to see Rastafarian-like Bob Marley wannabe’s torturing classic songs like “No woman no cry,” spray-painted silver men posing as statues and local bands singing “Every sperm is sacred,” a Monty Python masterpiece. On the contrary however, you are as equally unlikely to see everyday symbols of the commercial industry such cell phones and Starbucks cups, which is relieving to most, yet slightly disheartening to the die-hard corporate yuppies who probably wouldn’t step foot near the Market in the first place.

I would similarly contend that if you are a regular at the Gap or Abercrombie & Fitch and like to wear a lot of makeup, that the Saturday Market is probably not the place for you either; that is, unless purple hemp pants and velvet undergarments happen to be the fashion this month. But if you prefer smoking lots of pot, listening to Phish, bullshitting about philosophy or just have an “old soul,” the Saturday Market just may be your cup of chai tea.

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