A week or so ago, two towns achieved unexpected levels of notoriety through their inclusion in a New York Times story. Unfortunately, the reason for their mention in the piece is probably making life difficult for some small-town public-sector publicist.
According to the piece:
In 1991, less than 1 percent of children in the states with personal-belief exemptions went without vaccines based on the exemption; by 2004, the most recent year for which data are available, the percentage had increased to 2.54 percent, said Saad B. Omer, an assistant scientist at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
According to a 2006 article in The Journal of The American Medical Association, exemption rates of 15 percent to 18 percent have been found in Ashland, Ore. , and Vashon, Wash.
Ooooops… so what’s up? Is something weird going on out there? Ashland is located off of I-5 just north of the Oregon-California border and has a population of about 21,000 these days, according to Wikipedia.
So maybe it’s the home of a weird anti-modern-health cult or something? Maybe… but it doesn’t really seem like it. The top five employers in the area are:
- Southern Oregon University
- The Oregon Shakespeare Festival
- Ashland Public Schools
- Ashland Community Hospital
- The City of Ashland
So. First things first: The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is the #2 employer? More details please.
Ok. The Festival puts on 11 plays from February thru October. Only 4 or 5 of the plays they perform are actually by William Shakespeare, which frankly makes me question the appropriateness of the festival’s name, but I’m willing to let it go because the outdoor stage looks adorable.
The first season of the festival was held in 1935 over Independence Day weekend, and since then OSF has become a huuuuge deal. Visitors to the town aren’t even called tourists, they’re called “playgoers”. According to Wikipedia, the performances draw as many as 400,000 audience members each season. And check out this theater complex!!:
The 2008 season looks totally sweet too, so I’m definitely going to stop by. I’ll try to avoid measle-y looking kids, but seems like maybe it’s worth it?
Oregon Shakespeare Festival Official Website (they have a play called The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler… YES.)