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Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

JUNCTION CITY - The Mugwumps have come back to Junction City.

And as sure as the return of swallows to San Juan Capistrano means spring has arrived, the return of the shaggy hand puppets and wraparound monkeys means just one thing: It's time for the Scandinavian Festival.

The 51st annual celebration of all things Danish, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian kicks off today with all the usual bits of Scandinavian nostalgia, both real and ersatz, on full display. The festival's four-day run continues through Sunday, and, as always, admission is free every day.

This will be the 29th festival for William Walther, who sells Mugwumps and their furball brethren along with marshmallow shooters and wood toys from his booth on Greenwood Street. Think of Mugwumps as a Muppet that's easier to operate but just as cute.

Walther, 66, has been making the critters for nearly 40 years. He is a master puppeteer and artist who also conducts workshops in schools around the state through artist-in-residence programs.

And while certainly colorful, his creations also are simple to use, giving kids plenty of room to exercise their own flights of fancy.

"It's all about letting them use their imagination," he said, showing off Noah the Octopus, one of his more popular puppets.

With just a tuck here and a fluff there, Noah can become a hundred different critters, Walthers said, showing off a half-dozen of them. His creatures range in size from little finger puppets to 3-foot-long wraparound monkeys that can be worn like a furry puppet necklace.

Walther, of La Pine, said the Scandinavian Festival is one of just a few fairs he does every year. He said it's one of his favorites, and he spends several months making all the creatures and toys that he brings with him.

"I have regular people who come back year after year," he said.

Wednesday was setup day for the festival, and plenty of other folks were getting their booths assembled and stocked as well. The Aebleskiver booth was already in place, and yesterday was the last time you could see it without a long line of people waiting their turn for the popular Danish pastry.

All the other longtime food booths are back for another year, along with many other craft booths. And this year, someone even has a booth to sell ... booths.

Actually, the booth will be used by Soul To Go, John Pullins' barbecue d pork sandwich operation. He'll be slow- cooking more than 150 pounds of pork shoulder injected with Creole butter and herbs and rubbed with Cajun spices.

But the booth actually is for sale, too. It's a prototype built by local carpenter Dale McCleary, who sees them as the next big thing for outdoor living, especially in the sun-challenged Northwest.

McCleary hopes to turn the idea into a business building custom shelters that people can put in their backyards to extend the season for outdoor grilling or just enjoying the outdoor air. They might even add extra touches, like recirculating waterfalls or small fire pits.

"I can really see them taking off," McCleary said as he put the Soul To Go booth together. "The sky's the limit."


Where: Junction City, on Greenwood Street between Fourth and Seventh avenues

When: Today through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Daily themes: Today, Danish; Friday, Swedish; Saturday, Norwegian; Sunday, Finnish

Admission: Free
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Title Annotation:Local News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 11, 2011
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