Bohemia Mining Days made a full comeback over the weekend, including the crowd-pleasing, crafty and competitiveOre Cart Races. Above, employees of Northwest Automotive and Customs approach the fi nish line, beating out CoveredBridge Brewing's cart by just a hair.

COTTAGE GROVE – Ask anyone on the streets of Cottage Grove last weekend, and the general consensus would be it was a “rootin’ tootin’ good time.” Rootin’ tootin,’ indeed.

Kicking it back to its roots – the days of panning for gold, ore carts and frothy, chilled root beer fl oats – Cottage Grove’s trademark celebration, Bohemia Mining Days, came back in full swing.

Festival coordinator Scott Borgioli said that having “plenty of old-fashioned fun was the name of the game.”

Well played. The grins on the faces of families herding their kids homeward all told the same story: happy to be back to nearly-normal times like they used to be.

After a series of modified festivals during the Covid pandemic, “it (was) great to be back in Coiner Park,” mayor Jeff Gowing said.

The three-day affair was filled with music, parades, shopping, pink balloon flamingo hats and old-fashioned events like the pie-baking contest and the thump-bump sounds of antique farm machines – and some new things to experience, too.

On Friday, Grove residents and area families supported their little ones during the first ever Little Miss Bohemia pageant. The pageant was hosted by Miss Oregon volunteer Zonnie Johnson Borg and Cottage Grove city councilor Candace Solesbee.

All the contestants wore their best mining day clothes with no shortage of bonnets, lace and ruffles. The youngest winner, Aribella, 3, likes making funny faces and cherry pie.

“Bella is the spitting image of me when she was young – except Bella’s ringlets are all natural,” Amber Valancy said of her perfectly poised blonde beauty. She said before the crown was even awarded, she was introducing herself as “Little Miss Bohemia.” Well, if the crown fits.

Another winner, Tallulah, 5, enjoys cooking, dancing and “all the colors.” Madeline, 7, has three brothers and plays sports such as cheer, soccer, gymnastics and basketball.

With the success of the Lil Miss, coordinators are flirting with the idea of hosting a “Mr. Bohemian” contest next year.

The wooden-fronted Bohemia City was tucked into the trees of Coiner, where local bands took to the stage, artists sold their wares and visitors enjoyed the sunshine. Kids snacked on free root beer floats at Helena’s Saloon, where Karen Munsell or “Grandma Bohemia” was “happy to return to a fullfledged BMD,” and help kids “beat the heat.”

“This is such a magical spot. There have been hundreds of happy, smiling and laughing children coming through. It’s just amazing,” Munsell said during the event.

Grovers were happy to return to something the town has grown up with and the summertime festival their grandparents started, tipping their cap to the history of the mining district and the logging heritage of the region reflected by this year’s theme, “Timber – the New Gold.”

In Bohemia City, Don Emuel tended to an antique set of mining equipment, teaching eager onlookers about mining history.

“I want our heritage to be passed on to the younger generation to understand what man went through,” Emuel said. “Going from the horse and buggy to gasoline powered steam power and on in the future, this part of it, right, this is part of the history. That's what BMD is about.”

The second running of the Ore Cart races was a hit. Of the eight inaugural teams, half of those pioneers returned to do battle. This included last year’s first place winner and event sponsor, D&D Automotive, and second place finisher Covered Bridge Brewing Group.

There was some trash talk building up this year's matchup and when the dust cleared a new champion emerged. Northwest Customs Automotive’s newfangled all-metal cart busted out all the bells and whistles, and “Holy Smoke” rolled into first place as this year’s winner. D&D Automotive and Covered Bridge Brewing group got bumped down a slot, taking second and third place, respectfully.

The competition tried out new digs over at the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum. On display in the Museum are some bonafide ore carts along with artifacts from mines up in the Bohemia Saddle in the Umpqua National Forest. Out back, members of the Bohemia Mine Owners Association demonstrated equipment they use in working their still-active claims in the Bohemia District. Miners also helped interested folks get the feel and excitement of seeing real color and gold flakes at the panning stations. Patrons took that gold they worked out home with them along with a case of “gold fever.”

Saturday morning, one of the longest parade’s BMD has seen in years floated down 10th Street. Piper Ervin, Charley Sahntaz and Elxi Howard – all youngsters dressed in pioneer and cowboy garb – said their favorite part of BMD was being in the parade, the elephant ears, cotton candy, and carnival rides.

Yep, BMD came back with a new vigor and excitement. Hannah Garhofer, the reigning Miss Lane County, put it best: “It’s great to be back, to be able to be out in the community and see the faces of so many friends. We’ve been missing it.” 

Dana Merryday, Larissa Bork, Ron Hartman and Erin Tierney-Heggenstaller contributed to this report.