Safe party challenges stereotypes
By SJ.com – Tuesday 15th October, 2002
About 300 revelers crept back home early Sunday morning after dancing all night under black lights, neon canopies and the stars at an outdoor party northwest of Salem.
The event, which ran from about midnight to 7 a.m., had carnival lights, day-glow signs and a pulsing, dancing crowd.
It resembled a rave.
But unlike a rave, which is known for illegal drug activity, the party at the horse camp at the 4-H Center northwest of Salem was more about music and dancing than anything else.
A true rave is an illegal event lacking insurance, security or permits. Sunday morning’s party met all the legal requirements.
There have been several of these events in the Salem area in the last four years, but police say they have not heard of any problems associated with them.
Those who filed out of the open-air center Sunday morning were students, employees and parents from all over the Willamette Valley. Most appeared to be in their 20s, but some were as young as 16 and as old as 38.
Their night had started hours earlier at a Salem coffee shop where they paid for an admission wrist band and a map showing the location of the party.
Heather Schwalm, 19, said she and her friends came from Canby for the music and the community.
Instructions led Schwalm and others to the secluded horse camp. Torches lit the path to the three dance floors where several DJs produced a constant flow of rhythm.
Some people twirled flaming balls while others danced with illuminated batons. There were glowing blue bubbles, neon signs and laser lights.
Organizers said drugs were prohibited — fliers specifically instructed people not to bring them. But everything from pot to acid was still accessible.
Like any other event, there will be some people who do that, said co-organizer Katharine Army.
“But if (security) finds them, they do get kicked out,” she said.
She and her two partners have been organizing similar parties around Salem and Eugene for four years. Army said she got into the scene when she discovered that similar parties were a safe place to dance without getting groped like she did at clubs.
The Salem Police Department and the Willamette Valley 911 Center received no complaints about the party.
“Up to this point, Salem has not experienced any problems with raves under the truest sense,” said Lt. Ed Boyd with the Salem Police Department.
He said raves in other areas do hire security, but it’s often lax.
“But I would hate to comment on this one because I don’t have details as far as what the entire party was all about,” he said.
Sixteen-year-old Kassie Olivera and her friend Pamela French were among the younger partygoers. They checked out the fire dancers before driving home to Independence.
Olivera’s stepfather was the one who suggested that the girls go to the dance party, she said.
“He said it was a safe rave, and I’ve never been to one before.”
Salem nursing student Jami Bingham said she came out with friends to listen to good music.
She said a lot of people don’t understand what these parties are all about, but most think they do.
“It’s just a stereotype,” she said. “It happens to every generation.
“Raves are not all like that,” she said, referring to the drug atmosphere at a typical rave.
For Toby Jewett and his crew of fire dancers, the event was clearly about the music and the performance.
The Willamette University physics student organized a fire twirling group of Willamette students called the Alchemists.
“It’s a performing opportunity and a way to express myself in a relatively unique art form,” he said.
On Sunday afternoon, Jewett and his crew had plans to do everything from studying to making a presentation before the Willamette University Finance Board.
They were among the others who sleepily returned to homework, jobs and families on Sunday.