I think that it was a couple of days before the fair in 1995 that I first met Todd Ferryman and Troy Allison. They wandered down my road guided by my guardian angels. There are some points in your life where some major event begins with a meeting and this was one of mine. I had been doing it alone for several years and thought that I could continue on that way. They were looking for some early camping and I told them that I wasn't open until Thursday and they'd have to come back then. They offered to work and I did have a nasty ditch that needed digging. I had minimal tools, the ground was rock hard and my back wasn't getting any younger. So we struck an agreement. I have been counting my lucky, lucky stars ever since and they have been cursing theirs. Ha! They not only dug the ditch, they put in the fire pit at the drum circle, plumbed water to it to make the fire department so happy, put in the beautiful trail to the faire complete with not one but two bridges. Over the past twenty-some fairs these two men have done so many creative projects and just the humdrum boring things that it takes to pull an event like this off. Every year it seems like I come up with yet one more idea to make the campground better or more fun and these are the guys that I always turn to to help pull it off. They have so much skill and know how, they show up with tons of tools and the very best attitudes. They occasionally look at each other or roll their eyes at my foo foo ideas but they go along peaceable like anyway. I like that in a man! I tell them just think how easy it will all be next year! Hope is a wonderful thing. Then we come up with yet another idea. For quite a few years it was just Todd, Troy and I. The trees weren’t so tall then and the three of us would climb the ladder into the cupelo every Fourth of July and watch the fireworks. Those were really good days and now our family has grown.
When I feel over whelmed or I'm in the middle of a complex problem I can call them and just talking to them calms me down. They are wonderful problem solvers and have great ideas. They always seem to have a lead on something that I need. They bring work crews down and it's a beautiful thing to watch.
So the next time you walk down the Groove In Trail or sit around the drum circle gazing into the flames or enjoy Todd's psychedelic Teepee, or step into the new solar showers, or look up at the bubbles blowing out of the owls nest in the top of the barn you'll know who to thank. It takes many people to pull this experience off and Todd and Troy come down here on weekend's months before the fair to lend a hand. I want to let them know just how much I appreciate all of the time and really hard work that they put in truly out of the goodness of their huge hearts. Be so very kind to them Zumwalt has already tried to steal them away from me. Thank you guys for everything.
I could never pull this thing off without the blessed help and loyalty of the many friends that have flown to my side over the years. I've already written about my Arch Angels Todd and Troy, but how about all of the other folks who gather to make this thing so great?
Thank you to my Dad for all of his help and letting me borrow his "big" tractor every year. He welds things up for me and for all of his skills and ideas. I'm so proud of him. Dear Cousin and great organizer, Dan, who helps me up front and runs Buffalo Dan’s RV Park. Thanks to all of my guys from the Groove Inn. What a great bunch of people! They just leave me speechless. They are multi-talented and they just go, go, go. The handsome Todd Two organizes the parking, has built benches and worked on making the trail more beautiful every year plus everything else that needs to be done. He has the best most optimistic attitude that anyone could ever have. The debonair Tex, who can do anything. He’s responsible for the warm showers actually being warmer now. Built the Alibaba, put up the lights etc. I’m in awe of all of these peeps. A huge hug and thank you to Spades who puts on one of the best fire dancing shows in the world. Another crazy wonderful attitude.
Thank you to Troy's lovely wife, Tanya, Todd’s wonderful MoRaya and the rest of the Groove Inn's wonderful wives who put up with the boys flying off to Never Never Land every spring to get us ready for the Reunion. My ever diligent, ever faithful, hard working cousin Kelsey who is the Queen of the barn, Schedules, and so much more. I’m so proud of the food that this group puts out. Joel has been here forever and he and Maile help wherever needed. My cub scouts, all grown up, Tyler, Perry and Matt work precrew, and parking, I love you guys so much. Kyle wasn’t one of my scouts but grew up with my youngest son Jesse and works here too. I love you guys. Is it wrong to party with your cub scout leader? I know, What happens at Darling stays at Darling. Jamie, Emily and Colleen are our chefs extraordinaire. What a job!! We count on the help of Colleen's husband Joe who does such a fantastic job driving tractor. He’s also a great guitar player and builder and sings just like Willie Nelson. One time he made some crazy whiskey and I found myself laying on my back on a table at the Noti Pub singing duets into a microphone… Oh but that’s another story. Jerry and Dan and Laramie also drive tractor and are fabulous. Kelsey, Emily, Jamie, Colleen and the crew who makes us our delicious crew supper the Wednesday night before we Rock and Roll!
Heather, Ally, Jessica and Travis, our enthusiastic registration posse who throw everything they’ve got into welcoming all of you road weary travelers. Heather also paints all of the beautiful signs at the Darling Reunion. My Fierce Greeter Girls of the Alibaba! Arieyl who grew up running barefoot on this land and has been working here since she was a babe and now has a babe! Zenith was almost born here in 1992 but Mama held off until after the fair and now Zenith works here! The lovely Viking Val has been here forever. Danea and Ashley have grown up working here with their Mom Pat. The beautiful Ally and Sarah. Our security crew from CMS are the cream of the crop and have gotten better every year. Thank you to our trash and recycle crew Paul, Levi and the guys. You do the absolute best job cleaning everything to a T.
Thank you Mary and the gals at the University of Oregon Ticket Office, for all of their hard work selling tickets. Buck's Sanitary for their diligent work has been so appreciated over the years. Keith at United Rentals who always comes through for us. Rocky is a gem. Thank you to the Oregon Country Faire for being you, my great neighbor Joe, Stacey Cannon who designed this web site are all appreciated so much.
I have to give thanks, hugs and kisses to my three beautiful sons. Nick who started this whole thing ("Mom, there's some people outside who want to know if they can park their car here") Who knew! Cody who comes and helps me get ready and Jesse who is always there for me, helping everywhere. Now Cody and Jesse own the Shady Rest Campground next door so they’re as busy as I am. Love to my beautiful Grama, for her never ending love, support and inspiration, gone but forever with me. Love flies to my sister Val who will always have my back every second weekend in July, another angel whose spirit will always be with me. To the one who I will miss forever, Thank you for showing me true love. Thank you to the many friends and family who have helped me in the past... Juli, John & Jason, Joni, Randy, Lee, Pat, Cookie, Jennifer, Justin, cousins Lorrie, Eric, Cheryl and Kathlyn for all of their help and sage advise. Thanks to my dear friends Dave and Wanda who where there in the "early days". Sometimes I feel like Tom Sawyer when he acted like it was a privilege to paint his fence. Except I have all of these fabulous friends that keep coming back every year. Thanks to all of my extended family. It is like a beehive here and everyone just fills in and spills over to take care of any job that needs to be done. This wonderful group of people have become family to me.
When all of my revelers have flown the coop, we return equipment, have the biffys picked up, watch the trucks pick up the dumpsters and let our shoulders relax. We usually set up a big movie screen and my old time crew stays and we have movie night and eat as much of the left overs as we can. Then in the morning alas they must leave me too and I am left alone to navigate on The Darling Ranch without my Darlings, when things are suddenly empty and hollow. Every year it seems to last forever for me with my worries but when it’s over it all went too soon.
To the one I will miss forever. Thank you for showing me true love. So much love and appreciation to my angel Harvey. He owned the place to the west that is now Totem Park and he had the most beautiful laugh in the world. He taught me so many wonderful things. One of which is how to be a pretty darn good carpenter. I miss him so much.
I can't sign off on these letters of appreciation without expressing my deepest gratitude to all of the campers who come from every corner of the world, using this reunion as their hive. Who would we be without all of you? As you walk through the ranch after everyone is set up, I know that I'm not in Kansas anymore. It is so different here during the second weekend in July that I have gotten lost in my own campground! The creativity of some of your camps is amazing. Todd's Groove Inn, who would have thunk it? Joel's bamboo surfer bum's camp, Knutson's Corner, Jackson's Hole, The Banana Seat Biker Gang's Camp, The fairy Realm, Camp Boise, Chrystalina's Circle of Trees, The Lost Boys Camp Pit, Camp David, Happy Camp, Camp, Illuminaughty, Camp John Denver, Camp of Kings, Camp Family Jewels, Camp Feelin The Love, Wild Fish Tribe, Chrones Corner, Camp Get Down, Wet Tribe, Boom Sexy, Spotted Buffalo Camp, Deaf Row, Dragons With Matches, Extra Nice Campers, Faerie Market, Farm Camp, Fire Island, Glow Chateau, Greatest Day, Pirate Camp!, Heady Hats, Nomads, Nectar, Rasta Banana, Sky River, The Llama Family, Mushroom Flats, The Family, Transcendental Town, Tree People Tribe, Tribal Ninja Faeries, Turtle Grove, Camp Phenommenal, Jerky Boys, Kamp Krispy, Camp Stop Won’t Stop, Camp WaChuGot, Camp Abstraction, La La Land, Camp Bacon, Camp Peach Cheeks, Camp Chawanadance, Camp Chaos, BDivine, Bizarro World, Camp Classy, Camp Constantly Cool, Black Thumb Tribe. there are too many to mention. I walk through and see a beautiful room inside a mosquito net with a huge brass bed inside, a beach complete with sand (which they cleaned up and took with them) and shells and buckets, a huge monster that looks so real stalking through the ranch. Of coarse the more gregarious campers always stick out in our minds but all of you quiet campers who just enjoy the show are so appreciated too. I look at the work and creativity that went into your camps and costumes, the way you help one another and welcome our virgins showing them the ropes. I am so honored to be in a position to play any part in the deep friendships that have taken root on this lovely land. I know my crew feels the same. All of the romances that have bloomed here not to mention the weddings.
The work on the Ranch goes on year round, thinning trees, pruning, mowing, building, and then it really cranks up in the Spring. It is always so wonderful for me to see my faithful crew come rolling in. Many of them I only get to see once a year They've all got "regular" jobs to work around and the two weeks before the fair we're in a frenzy. I’m not kidding some of them have quit their jobs to be here! Kelsey, Emily, Colleen, Jamie and our kitchen crew makes us a camp feast on Wednesday night, the night before it all starts. By Thursday morning we're already exhausted, trying to put the finishing touches on before we have our champagne toast and I blow my conch shell to signal Todd and Troy to open the gate.
Sometimes, all that we deal with hour after hour are problems and we get a little cranky. Please forgive us and I know, like my Grama always said, "You've got the same panties to get glad in". It would make us laugh if you reminded us of that at times.
I've made so many friends. I started naming names here but had to delete them. There were too many, and unfortunately I'm getting a little long in the tooth and I might forget someone and then I would feel badly. Thank you to all of you who have made this your reunion, year after year. You come with joy, and leave your burdens outside the gate. Thank you for cleaning up your camp and leaving the ranch even better than when you found it. I'm so grateful for all of the wonderful friends that I have made.
Having one week out of the year to revel with our friends and families, to enter a new world at the wonderful Darling Reunion...Aren't we lucky? Suffice it to say that you are all treasured and have given us stories to last more than a life time. We are never, ever boring at parties because of you. Bear with us, and thank you so much for coming.
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