By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Back, and Forth: MacLocals creator inspires McMinnville state of mind

Kirby Neumann-Rea/News-Register##Josh Sager wears the first-issue Mac Locals T-shirt and holds stickers with images including the signature motif (for now) and a black-and-white one inspired by the “you are here” map dart.
Kirby Neumann-Rea/News-Register##Josh Sager wears the first-issue Mac Locals T-shirt and holds stickers with images including the signature motif (for now) and a black-and-white one inspired by the “you are here” map dart.

After talking with Josh Sager, I got to thinking — for reverse reasons — of a line from a 1989 James McMurtry song, “I’m Not From Here.”

“I’m not from here/I just live here/grew up somewhere far away/came here thinking I’d never stay long/I’d be going back soon someday … “

It’s Sager who has created the unique, yet below-the-radar “Mac Locals” effort. You might have seen the T-shirts and stickers in recent months.

Sager was fully new to McMinnville. He chose this place for different reasons, but has transformed an enthusiasm for Mac shared by life-longers and newcomers alike into Mac Locals, a concept in action.

By reverse reasons, I mean the song resonates because I can’t actually relate. It’s counterintuitive for me, even as a relative newcomer, because McMinnville is a place I went to college, got married, visited regularly and read about in the local paper long before joining its staff.

I can’t say I always figured I’d be back someday. I can say doing so came as no surprise.

After seeing his UFO-themed stickers and gear, I got in touch with Sager. We met on a bench at the US Bank plaza at Third and Davis, Mac being a town with not one “town square” but several.

“Essentially, Mac Locals is an all-inclusive exclusive club and all it takes to be a Mac Local is you saying you’re a Mac local,” he told me.

“Nobody’s from here/most of us just live here/locals long since moved away.”

That next McMurtry line speaks to the opposite of what defines McMinnville, a town that keeps many of its locals and draws people who feel deeply rooted despite being new. That makes the McMurtry lines so not McMinnville.

The essential spirit of Mac Locals is: No matter how long you’ve been here, you are from here.

“We moved to Mac in 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic when everything was closed down,” Sager recalled. He and his wife and kids were living in Southern California. After paying Oregon a visit, they decided they were ready to pull up roots and make the move.

They first tried Beaverton, then paid a visit to McMinnville. And in his words, they “just fell in love with this town.”

His daughter, Saylor, a Duniway Middle School seventh-grader, recently placed second in the statewide “If I Were Mayor” essay contest. She was honored by Mayor Remy Drabkin at the McMinnville Community Festival on May 25.

Sager quickly got the idea for Mac Locals, with its central motif an eyeball figure and UFO craft.

His modest distribution tactics included handing stickers out during UFO Fest. “Next year,” he said, “I want to dress up as the eyeball and walk in the parade.”

He also placed a handful in the hand of Ben Franklin downtown, posted one to Instagram and invited anyone to come and take one. He has since gotten a new Mac Locals poster put up in storefronts, featuring a colorful, mildly-freaky dose of psychedelia worthy of a ‘60s concert poster.

Sager is now branching out further with Mac Locals. The new gear isn’t free, but Sager isn’t making any money selling quality hats and T-shirts for $24 via the Magick Attic and McMinnville Antique Mall.

The designs have an intentionally short shelf-life.

“The way I want to do this, it should always be really extremely fun. I want to do short runs of everything, so once the T-shirts I made are gone, they are gone. I’ll make a new one.”

He’s forthright in saying Mac Locals has synergy with his work as a real estate agent. But he said one does not push the other.

“It’s about the longing,” he said. “It’s not the government or an organization of having you be part of it. I don’t want Mac Locals to be about me or anything.”

His maclocals.com website bears the tagline for him of “original and authentic community energizer.” The website and Instagram account (see #mcminnvillelocals and #maclocals) feature downloadable coloring pages, including one tied to next month’s Cruising McMinnville event, as well as Sager’s newest figure, McMinnville Pie Rat.

To his delight, other individuals and businesses have picked up on it via Instagram. One posted “Mac Locals is …………. “ and asked followers to fill in the blank.

“Everything they were saying was great,” Sager said. “If they want to pick it up and do something hateful, absolutely not. But if it’s inclusive of every single person …

“It felt good they adopted it and took on Mac Locals and spread their good vibes their way to their group. “That’s what I mean: it’s a way to be all-inclusive.”

He noted, “It does put a lot of trust in me, though, to makes sure I’m not leaning any which way. All I can say about that is, I really do care about every person. I want everyone to be included and adopted however they see fit, as long as it is beneficial to the community and to them I think it’s great and they should take it and use it however they want.”

The role of social media in his Mac Locals outreach is itself counterintuitive.

Sager confesses, “I despise social media. So much toxic bad juju in all of it.

“I thought if you can’t beat them, join them. I wondered if I could do this right. I wondered if I could do this where I am just motivating people to wanting to be a good neighbor.”

He said, “It does not mean you have to do anything. It’s just that sense of belonging. All of us are Mac Locals. One of the things I want people to realize down the road is that … I see an increase in unhoused people, and to me they are just as much a Mac Local as you and I.

“I really want this to be an entity of some sort that all it does is poke the bear — keep poking and keep the community focused on being a part of a team that you don’t have to pay to be part of, you don’t have to sign your name with any organization, there are no dues and you don’t have to go anywhere for a meeting. Just be a good human being.”

He plans to add sweatshirts next, and admits he learned a lesson about making sure to stock women’s styles and children’s sizes.

“It’s hard for me to ask the $24 we ask for them,” Sager said. But he said, “None of this is about making money.

“Once the base in the community buys off on this kind of weird interlocked group of people, I do see some value in helping out all the local businesses as well.”

He said, “One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of these businesses don’t know how to market themselves very well. That’s my wheelhouse.

“I see all these opportunities for everyone to create this excitement. I don’t see anyone else doing what I’m doing.”

Asked about Visit McMinnville and its outreach, Sager said, “Hey, they want you to visit. I want you to stay. And they’re great. If anyone does marketing well, it’s the Visit McMinnville guys.”

Asked who his gear is meant for, Sager said, “I want everyone, even if they don’t live here, just come to visit, experience that vibe. Yeah, I think anyone can be a Mac Local.

“Down the road, I know I can only do so much. I would love if other people saw the vision of doing the good for goodness’ sake. I want other people to do this.”

He said, “This isn’t mine. Mac Locals isn’t mine. With the state, as an LLC, yeah, it’s mine. But everyone already is a Mac local. They own it.”

I got to thinking that if James McMurtry had talked to Josh Sager in whatever town inspired, “I’m not from here/I just live here/can’t see that it matters much,” if he had gotten a dose of the Mac Locals, he might have played a different tune.

Contact Kirby Neumann-Rea at kirby@newsregister.com or 503-687-1291.

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