For the 59th time, Coiner Park on Highway 99 will transform into Bohemia City in a three-day festival meant to honor Cottage Grove’s history and serve as the city’s largest tourism draw of the year.
On Monday night, the Bohemia Mining Days (BMD) board came before the council to give an update on the festival that relies on sponsors, carnival revenue and some help from the city to fund its $52,000 budget.
Festival coordinator Cindy Weeldreyer, who has been involved in the festival for more than 30 years, introduced several board members and gave a rundown of activities and events at this year’s festival to a council that was sorely divided.
While all of its members supported BMD, lines were drawn between the residents of Slabtown and Lemati. A long-held tradition, BMD sees residents don buttons identifying them as a resident of either town and re-enacting the feud that saw a very real fight break out in the 19th century that eventually split Cottage Grove into two; Slabtown and Lemati.
City councilors donned old-western gear and chided each other over the state of their respectful cities in-between updates from Weeldryer who detailed changes to this year’s festival as well.
For the first time in 59 years, BMD will not be operational on Sunday, but rather see only three days of celebration. The board made the announcement earlier this year, citing the immense volunteer effort of taking down the infrastructure that creates the illusion of Bohemia City in Coiner Park as well as finances. The group noted that the carnival is one of the largest revenue streams for the event and this year, there was a scheduling roadblock.
“This year, July 1 fell on a Sunday and they count that as the first weekend of July,” Weeldreyer said. “So, this year, the way traveling carnivals work, this year, we’re competing with the Lane County Fair,” she said of the decision to pull back a day.
The group also officially pinned councilor Bob Ehler as the BMD Marshal; a position he occupied for the first time last year after former mayor Gary Williams was elected East Lane Commissioner and hung up his marshal’s badge. As marshal, Ehler will patrol the festival and issue citations for jay walking and not smiling enough.
Weeldreyer and BMD President Cathy Simmons also talked-up the new attractions at BMD this year including the zip line they said was a new source of revenue and the kids zone that featured infrastructure tie-dyed by local residents who could opt to buy pieces after the festival. The group plans to auction off remaining pieces for additional revenue.
“If it weren’t for the city and Sharon Jean, we wouldn’t be here,” Weeldreyer said, speaking to the loans and donations made by the city. The festival has struggled financially in the past with resident Sharon Jean volunteering and managing to pull the event out of the red and into the black, twice. According to Simmons, the festival did not lose money last year.
The BMD board concluded its presentation to the council by issuing a reminder that carnival tickets are currently on sale and that it has decided to institute late fees for anyone who signs up for the parade after this coming Friday, July 13. There are currently 18 entries.
“I don’t know what it is about our parade but we get a stampede the last three or four days,” Weeldreyer said. “And on the day of, too. So, this year, if you sign up after Friday, it’s going to be more expensive and if you sign up on the day of it’s going to be even more.”
For more information about the festival or to sign up for the parade or to volunteer, visit BohemiaMiningDays.org.