Acorn Fest highlights cultural diversity

Suzanne Vautier of CEEN was teaching about acorn processing at the Acorn Festival Saturday, Oct. 22.
(Photo by Lindsay Martinho for the Illinois Valley News)

The annual Acorn Festival and scarecrow competition, an event held by the Cultural & Ecological Enhancement Network, was brought to the Kerby Belt Building Oct. 22. Despite the sprinkle of much-needed rain that occurred partway through the festival, attendees seemed to be enjoying the selection of information and artistic wares inside. Though there was only a handful of entries in the scarecrow competition, the diverse and creative selection made it that much harder for voters to select the winner.
The festival itself occupied the very back room of the building, with a variety of tables lining the spacious area leading to the kitchen. CEEN displayed several pamphlets about the organization and festival, the supplies with which to vote on the scarecrow competition, and the various prizes for the raffle that was scheduled to take place later in the day.
Coordinator Suzanne Vautier was busily hosting her acorn processing demonstration. Her delight in the subject matter was obvious as she slowly moved participants down the line, explaining the three kinds of acorns that are native to Southern Oregon and the many processing methods that have been utilized throughout history in order to reap their nutritional benefits.
IRVAC was present with a popular craft table that allowed children to create necklaces and bracelets from dried corn, alongside another table for smaller children where bookmarks, wreaths, and other unique things could be crafted out of acorns, leaves, and various other natural materials. The children at the table were only limited by their own imaginations.
Many local indigenous organizations and artists, specifically those focused on spreading cultural art and information about local indigenous groups, were also present. These tables held a variety of unique crafts that were available for attendees to purchase if they chose, and the vendors were eager to supply any and all information that they could about their wares. In an area close to the kitchen, indigenous couple Stephen and Natasha sat with their children, their table filled with colorful handmade garments and accessories. Stephen explained that his family “always looks forward to making new things,” from jewelry and art crafted from porcupine quills to clothing and accessories made from deer hide, wool, and bone.
The scarecrow contest outside also attracted many event-goers, and although there were only five entries to vote on, the entries themselves were incredibly entertaining. Ideas ranged from a scarecrow riding a motorcycle, to a pumpkin-headed but jovial-looking traditional entry, and everything in between. The scarecrow that seemed to draw the most attention was the “Grey Fox Ram Bird”, an appropriately named combination of ram, bird, and fox that lent itself to the spookier side of the season. Nobody seemed very surprised when it was announced as the winning entry, but it was surprising when 4-year-old Carlin Oten marched up with their mother Lou to claim the $100 prize. The runners-up in the competition were Strawlee Rider, the scarecrow on a motorcycle, and a simplistic, child-sized scarecrow with a pumpkin head named Jeff. The raffle winners were also chosen, with several participants who had put multiple tickets in winning multiple prizes.
After that, the crowd settled down and dispersed, with some going home and others sticking around for the acorn-based community potluck that had been permeating the festival with the delicious smell of home-cooked food for quite some time. Overall, the event was a success, and a very good indicator that the Acorn Festival will continue to thrive in the Illinois Valley for many years to come.