I had 45 minutes to get the kids to a friend’s birthday party at one of those corporate pizza, arcade, bowling places, and we hadn’t bought a gift for the special birthday girl.
What I found, in my search for the appropriate gift, was a wonderful place to take a break, get a unique gift and pet a llama.
Rain Dance Marketplace started as an art fair on a farm outside of Newberg. The fair continued to grow, so the organizer, Celia Austin, decided to take it one step further and make a marketplace out of the show.
“It kept growing and growing and we had purchased this property and there was an old barn on it,” Austin said. “We tried to save it, but it was too far gone, so we built this place as a workshop for our llamas on the same footprint as the original barn.”
Austin is a self-described lover of interior decorating, art and design, and said she loves what she does with the festival – which they still hold every November before Thanksgiving – and the store. When I sat down to talk with her she was back from “market” where she purchased new items for the store, and it was like Christmas on the back patio as her husband and employees stacked, displayed and even built new benches for the store.
The barn has turned into about 1,800 square feet of retail bliss, filled with local artists, books, home and garden items and even food. She says she has more than 40 local artists co-signing work at the store, which really does have something for everyone.
It sits on about 20 acres of farmland up the hill from Newberg, and Austin has several llamas that roam the fields and entertain guests.
“We have several, but really two are our PR llamas, Louis and Bonzi. Bonzi is named after the basketball player Bonzi Wells who used to play for Portland,” she said. “I bet he doesn’t know he has a llama named after him.”
But the store is more than just about art and sophisticated gifts, it’s also about respite and taking a rest. The back porch of the store is set with pavers and tables and chairs, and while Rain Dance doesn’t offer lunches, people are welcome to come and bring their lunch, even a bottle of wine, and sit and enjoy the views and the llamas. You can feed the llamas and pet them, but on the day I visited it was warm outside and they were more interested in dust baths and standing in the shade.
“They really are like cats,” she said. “You have to coax them and if they don’t feel like being social, then you have to go to them.”
Rain Dance has become a local hot spot for bicyclists riding over Bald Peak on their way to Hillsboro or Newberg.
“Bicyclists discovered us and many have made this is a stop,” Austin said. “We do have cold drinks, and even got a refrigerator to tap into that market. People will stop here, have a cold drink and enjoy the views. This is really about appreciating the art and the local area.”
Austin said she describes her store as “a sophisticated farm store” offering local art, gifts and limited food items. She also features textiles from the llamas including yarn, blankets and other items.
“We carry what I call affordable art,” she said. “You can get a print, or a postcard for $2.50. We just want to share the work of our local artists.”
For my quick gift shopping, they had the perfect gift, stuffed animals, puzzles and a number of books about llamas. Unique gifts, for a little girl surrounded by Barbies, and it went over well. Now, whenever I am looking for that perfect gift, for young or old, I stop by Rain Dance Marketplace. You will find unique Oregon gifts there too.
About Rain Dance Marketplace: The Rain Dance Marketplace is located at Rain Dance Ranch in the beautiful Yamhill Valley outside of Newberg, Oregon. We feature local artists, gifts, llama fiber products, food, jewelry, and other wonderful items.
What to bring: While part of the patio is covered, if you want to enjoy the llamas, make sure you dress for the weather.
Tip: The employees at the market will gift wrap your items for you if you ask. In addition, give yourself plenty of time to look around, there are a number of really unique gifts and food items that are sure to please even the hardest person to buy a gift for.
Season: The store is open year-round.
Getting there: The store is located at 26355 NE Bell Road, Newberg, OR about two miles from downtown Newberg off Highway 219 toward Hillsboro.
By Patrick Johnson