Englewood Forest Fest makes a comeback

It’s been three years since the sound of music and dancing performers filled Englewood Park, but a signature neighborhood event will return Saturday with an expanded lineup.

The Englewood Forest Festival, a free community showcase of art, culture, science, environment and reading, is back for the first time since the pandemic, running 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The festival dates back to 2017, when neighborhood residents wanted to show off the seven-acre park, located at 1260 19th St. N.E. It was a hidden gem – one even residents living a few blocks away didn’t always know existed.

“People just saw it as a park. They didn’t know about the Oregon white oaks, that the park has over 90% native trees. It was just a park, and so we felt to protect the park, we wanted to increase awareness,” said Lynn Takata, chair of the Northeast Neighbors neighborhood association, and co-chair of the festival board.

Now in its fourth year after a Covid hiatus, the festival has a more diverse array of performers, including Ballet Folklorico and Paradise of Samoa dancers, ballet performances in costume by the Premiere Academy of Performing Arts, and headliner Ty Curtis and his blues rock band.

One highlight, Takata said, is several performances will feature both children and adults playing music or dancing together, “which is kind of a traditional way people learn music together,” she said.

In many cultures, including Pacific Islander cultures, Takata said “it’s not that there’s performers – everybody dances, people grow up dancing … It’s inspiring, I think, for the community to see that.”

Science and environmental themes will remain prominent at the festival, with a display from the Marion County Master Gardeners showcasing native bees and bugs, and other exhibits and activities about making habitats friendly for pollinators and native plants. Attendees can take home a wildflower seed ball to help attract pollinators.

A special performance at 3 p.m. will serve as a benefit for a local Ukranian family of four – a couple, their two-year-old daughter, and grandmother – that settled in a house adjoining the park after fleeing Ukraine in the spring. Takata said the family came to Salem by way of Poland because they have relatives here, and a neighborhood resident has been helping them settle in, along with Temple Beth Shalom.

The performance will feature Salem classical pianist Asya Gulua, who’s originally from Russia. Her Ukrainian husband is related to the family that settled in the neighborhood, Takata said. The concert is free but donations collected will go toward the family.

More than 30 local artists are signed up as vendors, and food will be available from food trucks La Chikiz Veracruzana, So Cheesy and Heavenly Yogurt.

Book lovers will also find plenty to do, with readings by local authors and booths where families can sign up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a program that recently came to Salem and provides free books to young children.

“As the festival has gotten a little more established and people know about us we’ve gotten a little more participation,” Takata said. “I think it’ll be a very rich, diverse and engaging festival.”

For more information and a full list of artists, vendors and performers, visit the Englewood Forest Festival website.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.