COTTAGE GROVE -- South Lane County's largest annual festival is just around the corner.
But this year's Bohemia Mining Days event comes with a twist. Many of the 1800s era relics have been replaced by more recent pieces of Cottage Grove history, as the event takes on a 1920s theme to commemorate some of the city's most infamous moments.
The event, which runs Thursday through Sunday, pays homage to the thievery and scheming of the Roaring Twenties in rural Oregon, under the theme "Swindlers, Scoundrels, Liars and Cheats."
The idea is to re-create one of the most turbulent eras in the city's history, festival spokeswoman Cindy Weeldreyer said. The 55th annual Bohemia Mining Days festival will replace 19th-century icons such as muzzle-loaded guns and Victorian era dresses with the sounds of jazz music and a replica Model T car.
"We've never come this far into the 20th century," Weeldreyer said. "It's always been 19th-century Victorian."
No event in the city's history harkens to swindling, lying and cheating like the con pulled off nearly a century ago by the Rev. David Olsen -- an event that partly inspired this year's theme.
Olsen, a former pastor of Cottage Grove's Christian Church, convinced townspeople in 1923 that he'd devised a contraption to tap a treasure trove of oil buried under their feet.
With support from community shareholders, he built a 100-foot-tall oil derrick on Mount David, on the city's northwest flank. But the Willamette Valley, with its volcanic origins, has no oil. Olsen's scheme fell apart two years later, and local citizens lost $27,000 in investments -- equal to $370,000 today.
Weeldreyer said this weekend's event will commemorate Olsen's scheme with a 20-foot oil derrick erected in Coiner Park, and a chance to buy keepsake deeds to Olsen's original oil well.
Other festivities this weekend include a carnival featuring games and rides, food, parades, live music, contests and a return of the fictional feud between the rival Slabtown and Lemati factions. Participants can pick which side of the historical feud to be on and compete in events such as tug of war, a three-legged race and others.
Also this year, a rubber tire train will move guests between the main event area at Coiner Park, the carnival and Cottage Grove's historic downtown district.
But Weeldreyer cautioned passengers to stay alert if they choose to ride.
"Certain gangs have been plotting to rob our train," she said. "Those might be occurring this year -- on Friday and Saturday."
Saturday marks the biggest day of the festival, Weeldreyer said, when most of the activities, contests and musical acts are scheduled.
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