Oregon Eclipse came to a close barely more than a week ago. Like the total solar eclipse the gathering celebrated, 14 festivals and 30,000 people from all over the world aligned perfectly only to disperse a short time later.
Symbiosis announced this festival-to-top-all-festivals soon after their 10 Year Re:Union. There was no information except that the fest would be in Oregon under the path of a total solar eclipse.
From there all anyone could do was wait.
Some people were dead set on going after the announcement. Others weren’t quite sure. Others simply marveled at the idea of being at a festival with a total solar eclipse.
Everyone had to wait though.
They waited for the dates, the location, the tickets, the lineup, the add-ons. For almost two years people were waiting for this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Finally in late August of 2017, the organizers announced everything. People from all parts of the U.S. and all over the world booked their travel, bought their supplies, and made their way to Big Summit Prairie. But then they had to wait almost 16 hours to get inside. That’s right. 16 hours. I was in line at 2 p.m. Wednesday August 16, and I reached my campsite by 5:30 a.m. on Thursday August 17.
This was also a problem at Symbiosis the previous year. People who arrived when the festival opened on Thursday had to wait upwards of 15 hours as well. However, those who took advantage of early arrival reached their campsites in less than five hours.
For Oregon Eclipse, my group and I bought early arrival passes specifically to avoid such a grueling entrance process, but nonetheless we faced it anyway.
At certain point attendees should expect a long wait. After all, these venues are meant to be far way from civilization, and Big Summit Prairie was so far away there was literally no cell service. Once you get out that far it isn’t practical for there to be more than one road that accesses the area.
16 hours is ridiculous though. We spent the whole first day of the festival in line. I feel like if there were attendants along the road leading in, they could facilitate a much smoother entrance process.
By the time I set up my tent the sun was up and I was completely exhausted. But then I heard a strange roaring sound above me.
It was the hot-air balloons. They were flying overhead, and when I say “overhead” I mean less than 50 feet above the ground. Some people in the balloons sang songs to us as they floated over. Others called out to the people who already popped champagne bottles.
It was in that instant I was reminded that this festival promised to be different than any I had attended in the past. (What other festival offers hot-air balloon rides?)
Maybe that marathon of an ingress was totally worth it. I already waited years anyway. Maybe the worst part already passed and there was nothing but bliss ahead.
Well if I had any doubts when I finally laid my head down they were dispelled soon after I woke up.
Not only did I awake to perfect weather, but as soon as I left my tent I saw two strangers sitting amongst my friends. This is not a rare sight at festivals, but it was different this time because the strangers were from France. Our other neighbors were from Australia. At the first set I went to in the morning I met someone from South Africa.
Every promoter says people from all over the world come to their festival, but Oregon Eclipse was founded on an international idea: that a total solar eclipse is not to be missed. The organizers of the 14 collaborating festivals knew that, and each of them brought a piece of their homeland to Oregon for one short week.
Yeah two years of planning and 16 hours in line was totally worth it.
Those 16 hours actually landed us one of the best campsites on the entire grid. We were just down the main road from the Sun Gate (which was the entrance closest to all the stages), a three-minute walk from the showers and ice, and a two minute walk from the bathrooms. A few people told me throughout the week that the campsite needed more bathrooms, but that was not my experience. Besides, the idea was for people to spend most of their time inside the festival, and there were plenty of bathrooms in there.
Other than the sufficient number of bathrooms, the festival grounds were set up expertly. And unless you were making a trip across the lake, no two attractions were excessively far from one another. There were some hills and rocky terrain, but not nearly as bad as other festivals that offer half as many opportunities. It took a bit of time to get the feel for it, but once you did, everything you needed (and wanted) was close by whether it was food, shade, water, vendor villages, or music.
Big Summit Prairie’s distance from civilization allowed for unrestricted sound. So every stage was loud until sunrise yet there was no sound bleed despite their proximity.
The Moon Stage hosted the heavy bass, and a section of the week was dedicated to the Deep Medi Crew who played more dubstep and UK grime than I’ve ever heard at a festival. The Sun Stage, a.k.a. Psytrance heaven, was pumping out beats all through the night and into the morning. According to the OE event page, a lot of people weren’t happy they could hear the Psy from the campgrounds, but I loved it. It was like everything we did over there had a psytrance sound track.
My favorite stage of the week had to be the Sky Stage though which was home for house and techno. Justin Martin played a 4-hour set because J.Phlip cancelled. I wanted to see Jess, but Justin got real weird for the second half of his set, playing tons of downtempo vibes and drum ‘n bass. &ME played the first primetime slot after the eclipse. Tapping into the energy looming throughout the Prairie, he played the best set of the week.
Of course music isn’t the only thing at events like this. Everywhere you went there was something to indulge the senses. A lot of California festivals recycle venues, so I hadn’t been to a new one in a while, and exploring a place I had never experienced before was quite refreshing.
I’d take a few steps and find a platform suspended in branches among a series of woodland furniture. I climbed it to see a view of the lake and colorful lights they projected on the other side of the water. A little after that I visited the planetary shrines which were next to a greenhouse with hundreds of plants. I kept walking after catching STS9 play at Big Top in front of 200 people and there’s a water slide with it’s own stage where Ardalan and Pezzner spun unannounced sets.
The only completely open space was the eclipse viewing area. The massive sun temple sat in the middle of a huge field ready for everyone at the fest to gather for one purpose.
Just as you’ve been waiting to hear about the eclipse, everyone at the festival was waiting as well. For us, it was more than worth the wait. Unfortunately to try and put such an experience into words is completely futile.
Everyone standing on the Prairie that morning had seen an eclipse on TV before. They all expected to see a black circle with a ring of light around it. What they didn’t expect was the energy that filled the air when 30,000 people are seeing it with you or the howl coming from those 30,000 people. They didn’t expect the temporary darkness cast on the land or the sunset happening on the edges of the darkness.
Most of all, no one expected it to be gone that quickly. All that waiting and just like that, it was gone. Everyone knew it would be about 100 seconds, but no one knew 100 seconds could go that fast.
It’s kind of sad, but also kind of beautiful. Not everything that’s amazing and wonderful in this world will last so it’s important to enjoy when you can. I certainly enjoyed Oregon Eclipse, and there’s another eclipse happening in the U.S. in just seven short years.
Looks like it’s time to start waiting again. It’ll be worth it though. I have no doubt.