Summer. A time like-minded people gather to enjoy the bounty of the the Pacific NW. Most often that means select time with friends and family around a grill. Other times the gatherings are organized around professional associations or common interests (book clubs, knitting groups and Farmers Markets). Occasionally, a random shared trait will bring people together, as was the case when nearly 200 redheads recently gathered in North Portland at Cherry Sprout Produce.
For the decade I’ve lived in North Portland, there hasn’t always had a full-service grocery store in my zip code, or the King Farmers Market nor the new Kenton Market, but there has been an affordable place to buy produce thanks first to Big City Produce then it’s scion, Cherry Sprout. Located on a double lot on the corner of Sumner & Albina, half the space is occupied by the store, half is green space – Cherry Sprout is the perfect neighborhood fixture for onions, lime, tortillas or groceries.
One of the things you notice about the building when you go by is that it’s topped with a large carrot. Not a real carrot, more of a sculptural carrot, an installation vegetable. The carrot is a fairly recent addition, having materialized at some point within the last 18 months. Like the mysterious Pyramids of Giza and enigmatic Stonehenge, no one knows exactly how the great carrot appeared on the roof of Cherry Sprouts. Except, despite that grandiose pronouncement, we can reasonably sure both the pyramids and Stonehenge are the result of careful planning and simple leverage whose construction was likely fueled by beer. Likewise, we know the 50ft carrot that now crowns the Cherry Sprouts was picked up in the greater Olympia area by a man wearing a bunny suit (true fact) and its installation on building’s roof likewise involved some combination of planning, leverage and beer.
A building topped with giant carrot seems like an apt place for a group of redheads to assemble – somehow the carrot top reference was meta without being obvious. Redheads account for 1-2% of the human population. Before the understanding of genetics informed us that red hair is the result of two copies of a recessive gene, (Shoutout to Chromosome 16), redheads were historically thought to be sanguine, of fiery temperament, morally base, wicked and occasionally thought to be witches (our bad). Currently in popular culture, the animated Eric Cartman of South Park fame dismisses all people with light skin, freckles and red hair as ‘Gingers’, claiming they suffer from the incurable genetic condition known as ‘Gingervitis‘. Either because this specific gathering doesn’t subscribe to basic cable and remain blissfully unaware of the derision, or they are working to reclaim the term, the assembled group freely self-identified as Gingas or Ginger-Americans.
So what do 200 redheads do under a giant carrot? Nothing dramatic, no list of demands, there was no march, no chants of “What do we want?”, answered in unison by “SPF 120” – nor a second call and response of, “When do we want it?”, “Whenever the sun is out or about to come out”. Instead the group munched on carrots provided by Cherry Sprout, traded stories, engaged in a little shop talk and commemorated the event with a few photos (pictures courtesy of Marci MacFarlane).