Last Thursday “The Register Guard” announcement that Eugene Celebration has been indefinitely postponed until further notification, gave pause to Friday Artwalk participants. A handful of oldtimers shared their views with the Eugene Headlines Examiner on the cancellation of the original and only Slug Queen festival.
As they talked around the table in front of Davis’s Restaurant on Broadway, my fellow Artwalk participants were less than surprised by the announcement. Sitting in the middle of the Downtown redevelopment, a sense of change is in the air. Gone are the downtown homeless of Occupy Eugene. Replaced by a mix of young and old, economic optimism has replaced the din of a downtown retail area dead since the late 1970s.
Thousands of people now filter the early evening light as sidewalk musicians and dancers add their theatrical presence to the bustling restaurant and gallery district.
My friend Pat, a Eugene resident and school teacher for decades, believes that Eugene Celebration has died with the diminishing party-hardy exuberance of an aging baby boomer generation.
True enough, last year's 3 day event didn’t draw the anticipated hoard of just a handful of years ago. While the music was exceptional, admission reasonable, food and drink plentiful, fewer folks were there to partake in the festivities. It was a sad turn of events.
Pat and other middle aged Eugenians share the theory that the party goers that built the Eugene Celebration and the Country Fair now call it quits at 10 pm, instead of 2 or 3 in the morning. Pat may have a point. I decided to take the investigation up a notch.
Here’s what I think is going on. Kesey productions took on the management of Eugene Celebration in 2013. I believe they lost money on the event. And then, we must take into account the relatively new revitalization of the downtown merchant district. Reading the Register Guard article, Kesey states that the merchants have voted down Eugene Celebration due to the impact on downtown business. True enough, the food and concession booths take both sides of Broadway during Eugene Celebration.
Also, multiple staged music venues, security, concession parking and merchant staging necessitates the closing of the majority of the Broadway, Pearl District to vehicle traffic.
Long time Eugene Celebration attendee and local Realtor David Duncan tells us that Eugene Celebration may not return to the downtown district anytime soon. He believes the food concessions should be moved to an area west of Broadway and Willamette. This would reduce retail business interference and traffic impact.
Last week I was informed by a young concessionaire that tickets to the 2014 event were free to attendees; now we know why. none the less, according to people in the know, the Eugene Celebration Parade remains on track. And a persistent rumor is circulating in the district claiming that Eugene Celebration will return in 2015; we shall see.