Made in Southern Oregon makers fair showcases local talent

·4 min read

Sep. 17—Dozens of tables and white pop-up awnings lined Pine Street in downtown Central Point on Saturday for the Made in Southern Oregon fall makers fair, a collection of people and their crafts that treated the visitor to a departure from the average with every step.

The event showcased poured resin crafts, photography, paintings, baked delicacies, farm-grown homemade apple butter, delicate jewelry, handmade aprons and bags, and welded metal. Every vendor sat behind their table, surrounded by their own hard work, the sum of interests, skills or needs.

Unmistakable and causing heads to turn up and down the street were three people carrying birds — two doves and one pigeon.

Heather Gomberg carried her English Tumbler hybrid on her head most of the time. Perched on her trucker hat, the elegant black and white pigeon with elaborate foot feathers looked comfortable. A leash stretched from her hand to a harness on his back.

She struggled to walk more than five steps before someone stopped her, beaming with questions about the bird.

"You're protected," she said, lifting his tail feathers and showing Oreo's diaper before passing him off to be held and petted by strangers, "It's leopard print, obviously."

Gomberg worked at the Rain Forest Cafe, she explained. There, she learned to be a parrot trainer. But parrots are moody, and they require skill and empathy to handle. Like most pigeons, Oreo is of a sweeter disposition, making him a better animal ambassador. But it has so far been impossible to teach him tricks.

"If you can feed it, you can train it," she said, "But him, he's so happy with people he won't eat. He won't eat until I leave, so there's nothing," she said shrugging her shoulders.

Gomberg attended the makers fair with her friends, Sindy Harris and her husband, Steve Morgan. Sindy uses the couple's enormous aviary to take in rescue birds. To support the birds, she has a shop — Cindy's Pigeon Service. She also offers visits from the birds and tours of the aviary.

"These are Jake and Rose," she said, pointing to two stark white doves with red eyes sitting in a backpack carrier, "they were used in a wedding release. The couple dyed them green to match their wedding colors. So these birds are blind."

Much of Harris's aviary is populated with either domesticated doves and pigeons released for ceremonial occasions who then get lost or attacked by other animals. Racing pigeons often suffer the same fate, she explained, and she takes them in too.

The birds and their people hovered near the end of the fair, just across the street from a table where a young couple and their five elementary school children were actively adding to their stock of handmade leather goods. The sound of little hammers pounded from the both. Tate Deems knelt at a table, surrounded by children, his own and his nieces and nephews. He was teaching them to make wallets.

He was a school teacher and an Anglican priest outside Philadelphia, he explained. But his family is in the valley — he grew up here — and an aging priest is preparing to retire here in the valley, managing to draw together a fledgling parish.

Deems came to be shepherd to this little flock, he said, but it isn't enough yet to support his family. They decided to turn his long-term hobby, leather work, into a family business.

Owning a small business alongside his wife gives him the financial buttressing he needs in this moment while allowing him flexibility with his time, keeping him open enough to support his parish, he explained.

"There's a lot of reasons why a pastor's work can't just happen just after dinner and on the weekends. We made it a priority to make this happen so I could be available when I needed to be," he said.

His wife, Amy Deems, said she takes joy in the work with her hands and the virtues it requires — perseverance in the face of failures, patience, focus and constancy.

The same virtues required for being parents, she explained, work that she and her husband have folded into their business. The whole family works together on what they make. All five of their children are under the age of 8, she said.

"God has just blessed us, we just take 'em as he gives 'em to us," Amy Deems said.

Booths like the Deem's and yet completely unique to themselves stretched down the street, and families with every breed of dog imaginable walked between the tables in a hum of happy chatter as the cool air of fall's arrival mingled with the dimmed sunshine of summer coming to a close.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.