The Sweep

The informant is a regular attendant of the Oregon Country Fair. The Oregon Country Fair is an annual non-profit craft fair held in Eugine Oregon held on the second weekend of July. In its inception it was known as the Oregon Renaissance Faire,  however in 1977 it changed its name to better reflect what it represented. The informant told me about a ritualized event that happens every night at the fair which he calls The Sweep. The Sweep is an event that happens at 7pm on the Friday and Saturday of the fair. During the sweep a group of guards link arms and walk around the fairground kicking everyone who does not work for the fair out of the area. The name “The Sweep” comes from the sweeping formation the guards walk in as they tell people to leave. This serves two purposes. First, it signifies that the fair is closed to the public. Second, it lets the workers know that the fair is now theirs for the rest of the night. This marks a transformation period in the culture of the fairground. The informant stated that “the real fair doesn’t begin until after the sweep. Thats when everything important happens.” This is because after the public leaves, the people who work at the fair are able to interact freely without having to “keep it respectable for the families and children that go there during the day.” The informant stated that after the sweep “the fair transforms into much more of a tight-knit hippie festival.” The Sweep also serves a very special purpose to the people who are working at the fair for the first time. According to the informant, your first Sweep is “the moment you truly become a part of the community. Its like truly being a part of the fair for the first item. After staying through your first sweep you realize that everyone [working at the fair] wants to look out for each other and be a community.”

This ritual is really interesting as it seems to be the primary thing that separates fair goers from the people who live at and work at the fair. The way the formation described it made it seem like a truly transformative event that completely changes the environment of the entire fairground. Additionally, it functions as an initiation ritual for those who may have been fairgoers in the past who are now working for and as a result seeing what the informant called “the real fair” for the first time. Its of note that even the guards buy into this ritual opting to link hands and literally sweep the fairground in order to ensure that the attendants of the fair leave. In a way, this ritual symbolizes the transfer of power. During the day, before the sweep, the fairground belongs to visitors but after the sweep, it is given back to the people who work there.