Getting Down at the 9th Annual Ancient Forest Hoedown

9th Annual Hoedown

Driving through Cottage Grove, following a school bus that had undoubtedly seen better days, we pulled off pavement onto a dusty dirt road leading to Avalon Stables, host to this years 9th Annual Ancient Forest Hoedown.

The hoedown is one of several fundraising events benefiting the efforts of local activist organization, Cascadia Wildlands.   One of the current battles on the forefront for Cascadia Wildlands is their effort to stop the passing of legislation that would allow for dramatic increases (40%) in timber harvest in the Elliot State Forest in order to raise funds for education, as 91% of the land is currently designated as Common School Fund land.  Sally Cummings, Operations Manager at Cascadia, told me that the new management plan is scheduled to be reviewed by the state land board on the 11th of this month.  She said that there is “a rally in Salem on the 11th at the Capital building, people can show their support by being present to show their concern for maintaining species and forests”.

Having originated in 1998, non-profit organization, Cascadia Wildlands mission is to “educate, agitate, and inspire a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems.”  Their headquarters is here in Eugene, but their broad reach works to protect bioregions stretching from Oregon to Alaska.  Cascadia is reputed as a regional leader in grassroots conservation efforts, having worked to preserve millions of acres of forest, and prevented further extinction and endangerment of several native wildlife species.

As the last moments of daylight began to depart, we moseyed through the open stable, visiting the resident equines in their stalls.  Volunteers at the Hoedown were setting up a buffet table featuring steaming vegetarian chili, fresh crisp salad, and many other goodies to compose a healthy dinner to fuel the dancing that would later ensue.

We stopped to grab a mug of tasty apple cider, then wandered up a small knoll to join a growing circle of hoedowners surrounding a blazing bonfire.  Making our way down to the corral, we stopped back at the stable briefly to fill our mugs with with delicious hot coffee, courtesy of the Wandering Goat Coffee Company.  As we stepped into the show arena, we took note of a table stocked with information highlighting Cascadia’s most recent efforts, including petitions to extend protections to the currently threatened grey wolf.  At the far end of the arena, local favorites, the bluegrass belting Conjugal Visitors prepared their spot on a mobile stage.

In the show arena I met Missy Mae, a resident of Eugene.  When asked to participate in a short informal interview, she said “as soon as I grab a beer”, and headed for the Ninkasi tent, not far from the festivities to grab a hand crafted pint.  Upon returning, Missy Mae said attending a benefit like this was important to her “first and foremost because it’s an opportunity to support ancient forests, and also an opportunity to come out and see great live, local music – the Conjugal Visitors.”  Missy Mae told EDN that she what she was looking forward to the most was “getting out there to dance like an idiot with everyone when no one knows what they’re doing”.  In discussing the recent activities and efforts of Cascadia Wildlands, Missy Mae said that she feels “People are more inclined to get involved when there is a struggle.”   

Before kicking up his heels to Bob Ewing’s square dance calls, Nick, another Eugene resident, spoke to EDN about his first visit to the Hoedown as he enjoyed a goody provided by sponsor, Voodoo Doughnuts.  Nick told me he was drawn to the event because he had never experienced a hoedown, and he was looking forward to learning a new type of dance.  Nick attributed the youthfulness of the crowd to “the community setting it up is younger – word gets out like that – there’s not a lot of community stuff to do in Eugene,”  finishing the last bite of his doughnut, he continued, “It’s a treat!”.

While the Conjugal Visitors and square-dancers took a break, hoedowners formed a line across the arena to compete for the honor of being hailed as champions of the three-legged race.  Two waves of competitors hobbled as fast as their joined ankles would allow, some falling into huddles to avoid being stampeded, as they made their way toward the finish line.  Winning pairs from each wave realigned for the final challenge on the road to victory.

Cummings told EDN that anyone interested in supporting through attending rallys’, writing letters, donating, or volunteering their time can find more details on the Cascadia Wildlands website.

Story by Elisha Shumaker, EDN
Photos by Timothy Clark 

Ninkasi and Cascadia Wildlands Team up to Benefit the Environment with “Pints Gone Wild”


What could be better than drinking delicious, locally crafted beer on a summer evening?  How about drinking delicious, locally crafted beer and helping to protect regional wildlands. 

Ninkasi Brewing Company of Eugene opened their beer garden in the Whitaker neighborhood on Tuesday night to welcome the five-piece bluegrass band Opal Creek as part of a year long fundraising effort to support Cascadia Wildlands.  The first Monday of every month (through May 2012), Ninkasi has pledged to donate half of all the proceeds from beer sold at their tasting room to benefit Cascadia Wildlands.  “Pints Gone Wild” began earlier this summer, as a cooperative effort to raise funds to further the causes supported by Cascadia Wildlands.

Ninkasi co-owner, Nikos Ridge, told EDN, that the brewing company has been glad to help in supporting Cascadia because “they do a great job achieving their mission, and they also support the McKenzie Watershed, which is one of our business interests.”  According to Ridge, using the cleanest water when brewing their craft beers is critical to maintaining their high standards of quality.  Ninkasi and Cascadia Wildlands also share more than just an appreciation for the environment of the Pacific Northwest. They want to make a difference.

This isn’t Ninkasi’s first time showing their support for Cascadia’s work.  The brewing company has also sponsored, through monetary and in kind donations, events such as Cascadia’s annual Hoedown in October, their Wonderland Auction in December, and the Wild & Scenic Film Festival.  Josh Laughlin, campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands, expressed to EDN that Ninkasi “has been generous since their inception, they have really set the bar high on community support.”

Cascadia Wildlands works to protect the most vulnerable ecosystems stretching from Oregon to Alaska. Founded in 1998, Cascadia Wildlands has succeeded in using legal means to prevent and reverse legislation that would have otherwise allowed for major destruction of precious wildlands.

One of the current efforts being made by Cascadia Wildlands is to restore populations of the grey wolf in Oregon. The grey wolf has experienced extinction in Oregon through systematic removal, and have only recently began to repopulate through migration from Idaho.  In May of this year, Congress repealed the Rocky Mountain grey wolf’s status as an endangered species in Montana, Idaho, and parts of Washington and Oregon. Laughlin said that currently there are approximately three packs of twenty wolves that have been restored in Oregon.  Cascadia is working to protect these wolves from further threat, by attempting to block legislation that would allow for the hunting of these endangered wildlife.

Another major goal of Cascadia Wildlands is to guard Elliot State Forrest (ESF) from clearcutting.  The Elliot State Forrest is a publically-owned rainforest covering 93,000 acres of Oregon’s coastal region.  ESF contains more carbon per acre than nearly any other place in the world.  This means that clearcutting this area would release carbon into the atmosphere, ultimately abetting climate change.  Currently, the Governor’s Forrest Management Plan calls for a doubling of the clearcutting that is already taking place at ESF as part of a previous agreement to help provide funds for education.

Ninkasi’s continued support has been instrumental in helping Cascadia Wildlands fuel these environmental watchdog efforts as well as many others. Find out more about Cascadia Wildlands’ by visiting their site. You too can take action to help protect the majestic Northwest through your volunteer or monetary contributions. 

Elisha Shumaker, EDN
Photos by Brandon Preo, EDN