Monday, October 14, 2013

The Jazz Experience in Medford

         The most fun to be had in southern Oregon has to be the Medford Jazz festival, held the second weekend of October, which just celebrated its 25th year.  Hundreds of people come from all over the country and have the freedom to roam four venues, all vibrating with a variety of   jazz groups, plenty of space to celebrate or dance away the blues, demonstration dances, dance classes, and lots of laughter. The new Inn at the Commons (formerly the Red Lion) hosts much of the event, with the Imperial Event Center, Howies On Front, and Studio C (channel 5) as additional sites this year. Free shuttle buses take party-goers from place to place while jazz is piped over the intercom.  

        The professional bands come from as far as New Jersey and St. Louis and feature saxes and clarinets, guitars, drums, keyboards and strings,  raging lively music from New Orleans to Memphis, with the perennial favorite, the passionate Zydeco violinist Tom Rigby and his band Flambeau, who come from Berkeley but spend most of their time on the road playing at similar fests around the country.  Another favorite is traveling saxophonist Bob Draga who shows up on various sets to raise the energy and bring the audience to its feet. In attendance are many senior groupies dressed in glitter and dancing shoes, who follow their favorite bands around the country, and make a retirement hobby into a traveling party. These people can really dance! Extravagant dance dresses can be rented by the hour, and volunteer dance partners are available by request with the raising of a dance paddle.

       Although most of the bands are repeats from many years, called back by popular vote, a recent addition is Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys (from Texas), playing 50's rock and roll, with a bass player who handles his instrument like a steel guitar, a pioneer player who is too excited to sit down and can sing like Little Richard and Elvis, and a guitarist who sometimes throws his guitar over the back of his head and plays upside down (so does the bass player -- see photo below).  The Southern Oregon jazz band is part of the action and the Oregon Coast Lab band, a large and remarkable group of  talented and personable kids from Oregon coast towns who know how to rock.  You missed it this year but check it out for 2014 at You'll be amazed at the quality of the show. It made me realize EVERYONE should dance -- It is so good for the spirit! Here are some pictures, but without the music they are a limited experience, so imagine the music!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Oregon Gardens in Silverton

If you enjoy gardens you are sure to love Oregon.  One of the most famous gardens in Oregon is called simply the Oregon Gardens, located in Silverton, a small town near Salem and less than an hour south of Portland. It's a popular weekend getaway. We traveled up that way recently and stayed at a lovely resort Bed and Breakfast in the Gardens, where we were free to walk and enjoy or take a shuttle with a guide to hear about the projects and various themes of plantings in the hundreds of acres  there.  We had a great dinner at the charming Creekside Cafe, in a former railway station in town, but there is a lovely view restaurant in the resort as well.  August may not be the best time of year for flowering in most places but it doesn't seem to have much impact here. It is gorgeous and many plan weddings and special events on the grounds. There is a children's garden, a fountain garden, an herbal garden, rose garden, area highlighting trees of Oregon, a model for fire-safe planting, and other demonstration areas.  You can easily find the Oregon Gardens and the Oregon Gardens Resort on the web.

The Gifts of July in Ashland

So much to do in southern Oregon there is little time to write.  Since pictures are worth a thousand words here are a few events we passed through in July. The big event every year here is the 4th of July, with a parade, band concerts, lots of park events, artists, food and fireworks.  It is an old-fashioned small town  4th, more accessible and personable than the big city events because you know lots of folks performing, and even work at something yourself -- in our case, the Lions Club bar-be-que chicken dinner. Everyone in town seems to be here, children wading in the creek after the long march, the mayor in the bandstand, booths for various clubs and causes.  Here are a few scenes from the 2 1/2 hour parade. The first is just one of three full truckloads of American Band College participants, instructors from around the country and the world, who gather this time of year at Oregon State University and play in the parade and at a concert at the high school before the fireworks.  They are fantastic!

Pictures from the band concert and fireworks, with flags from all the countries and states who send band teachers to this annual college program.

Harry Walters, trombone virtuso from Washington DC

Alpalcas seemed to be big this month and we attended an accordian and farm day event in Eagle Point where we learned more about alpalcas than we ever expected to know.  The little ones are adorable and the adults very curious about we strange human creatures staring at them. They are sheared once a year for their beautiful soft fur that makes beautiful shawls and blankets. They come from the Cameled family, same as Llamas, but are smaller and I've heard can be wonderful pets! 

A fund-raiser for the Medford Sight and Hearing Center was held at one of the many wineries that flourish in the Applegate, this one located just between Jacksonville and Central Point, and an active farm with its own beautiful alpalcas (I understand there are over 30 alpaca farmers in the region).
The event included great music, a silent auction and generous appetizers along with the opportunity to wine taste -- a typical fun evening in the country.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Bandon Weekend on the Coast

            If you've moved to Ashland from California the only thing you might possibly long for at times (unless you miss traffic and crowds) is the ocean.  There is a wealth of recreational  water everywhere, with lakes and rivers great for fly fishing, rafting, rowing and swimming,  but to reach the soothing rhythms  and awesome drama of the ocean the shortest distance is a 3-4 hour trek to either Brookings or Bandon. It is well worth the trip.
             We traveled to Bandon recently and stayed at the Bandon Inn, where every room has harbor views overlooking the little village of old town Bandon. There is an easy path down to art galleries, restaurants, a narrow pier for crabbing, and the petite harbor.  The old town is 2 blocks long and 3 blocks wide, with a few outlying businesses, such as the newly-built cheese factory on Hwy 101.  The shops have lots of kitchy treasures, nice local crafts, two fun bookstores (a new and a used), coffee houses, candy and chocolate stores, and some very fine art, and the restaurants are good. There are lots of free candy samples at the Cranberry Sweets Co, and cheese samples or ice cream cones at the Face Rock Creamery, and a Friday-Saturday indoor farmers market with great bread, fish and pastries sharing space with local craftspeople.  Here is a sampling of the views, windows and wares in town:


 A recent non-profit project based in Bandon is,  which exhibits in a warehouse -sized space giant sea life sculptures created from ocean debris,  offers environmental art workshops, and promotes awareness and action to save oceans and sea creatures from plastic pollution and other waste dumped into them annually. They say the project has impacted the lives of over 1 million spectators in several communities.  Here is some of their charming and shocking giant artwork displayed in the center of town, made only from found plastic in the oceans.

Without doubt the most remarkable gifts of this area are the beaches that stretch for a few miles in both directions, wild and open spaces with lots of bleached driftwood, some in the form of large tree trunks piled up as if giant logging trucks had flown over and tossed out excess tree baggage. The beaches are dramatic, powerful and awesome works of nature, with only a few walkers or families about. A place to contemplate and nurture the soul.  A favorite place to walk is the Coquille Point Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where a walking trail on the bluff has descriptions of the history of the area, staircases lead to the beach, and sea birds and sea lions share the coastline. Here are a few photos of the area.

We also wandered up the coast to Coos Bay, and discovered the stunning  Shore Acres State Park, graced by acres of English gardens alongside  the drama of  ragged wild coastline views.  The land was once owned by the  Louis J. Simpson family who  started the ship-building business in Coos Bay and originally was the site of a mansion that was lost to fire.  Eventually the property was  partially donated and partially sold to the state.  Today it is primarily tended and supported by volunteers who keep thousands of flowers in bloom through all seasons, and decorate with 300,000 holiday lights between Thanksgiving and New Years. In June the place was nearly empty, serene, and awesome.  I think it may be one of the best kept secrets of the Oregon Coast, as it took us seven years to hear about it!.  They have a website at