Tonasket holds 44th annual Okanogan Family Faire

Local musicians lead the annual parade around the grounds. Left to right: Casey Martin on banjo, Angela Cross on flute, Lota Duarte on guitar, Kristen Super on drum and Michael "Buffalo" Mazzetti.

Local musicians lead the annual parade around the grounds. Left to right: Casey Martin on banjo, Angela Cross on flute, Lota Duarte on guitar, Kristen Super on drum and Michael “Buffalo” Mazzetti.

“We had more online tickets sold than ever. People were making their reservations in advance,” said Faire Manager Cyndi Benitez. “We didn’t get much traffic Saturday (in the snow and rain), but we had just as many campers as ever and people staying the whole weekend.”

Benitez said over 400 vendors were registered, along with people bartering by hauling goods along the straw-strewn lanes by wagon. The site has a total of 600 large vending spaces. ”

“People were setting up vending spaces beyond the inner trading circle, in the camp spots also,” said Benitez.

An event this large takes a lot of hands to help it flow smoothly, and 500 volunteer passes were given out before the faire started, and another 400 during the faire. A staff of 60 coordinators fill needed roles such as keeper of the gatehouse, security, parking attendants, people placing vendors, watering roads, coordinating both stages and a kitchen coordinator for preparing and serving three meals a day to volunteers.

Along with old traditions, the faire grounds saw some new additions this year, with a large storage shed at the volunteer kitchen turned into a walk-in refrigerator with a col bot air conditioner, two new generators and a 1979 Ford Pickup purchased for staff to cruise the site.

“We are slowly improving our infrastructure,” said Benitez, “but hopefully we still made enough to give back to the community in grants and scholarships.”

The Okanogan Family Faire gives out $5,000 in scholarships and another $25,000 in grants each year.

“In the past we’ve given out $35,000 or $40,000, but the last few years have been tight years,” said Benitez, “due to coming out of recession and then the big wild fire scares in 2015; people were either scared off coming or couldn’t because they had lost their homes. But I think we are seeing it swing back up now.”

Recipients of grants in recent years include the Laura Fraley-Wilson School of Dance, Tonasket Choice High School, Okanogan Valley Orchestra and Chorus, Columbiana, the Okanogan Highlands Alliance and Green Okanogan Recycling Center.

“We gave Green Okanogan $10,000 to help them purchase the site they are on, and we gave to the Okanogan School District in the past, too,” said Benitez. “It’s exciting.”

Benitez said she was also excited about the Spring Faire coming up.

“We lost the Garlic Festival the CCC (Community Cultural Center) used to put on and the Chamber of Commerce said they weren’t prepared to take it over, so we might pick up that event also,” said Benitez. “The we would be a three-event organization, with spring, summer and fall events.”

A large contingent of folks from Port Townsend bartered at the faire; including second and third generation attendees Ashley and Forest Kehl, whose father and grandfather Michael Pilarksi founded the faire 44 years ago.

GT BF Herb Seminar med

Herb seminars led by Michael “Skeeter” Pilarski and the Friends of the Trees Society, teach attendees how to harvest, store, prepare and use a variety of wildcrafted botanicals and medicinal herbs.

Sunday morning lane

Sunny skies on Sunday bring welcome relief and additional customers after Saturday’s snow and rain.

Youthtopia South (above) features lots of play choices in the thick of the Vendor Circle, while Youthtopia North offers a quieter setting with Dream Nets strung between trees. The Dream Nets, created by Sarah Jane Knoxx, have been featured on two episodes of Tree House Masters.

Hayden, Idaho's Rita Joy, the Mayor of Orange Street, lifts up Orange Street Vendor Sarah Edwards.

Hayden, Idaho’s Rita Joy, the Mayor of Orange Street, lifts up Orange Street Vendor Sarah Edwards.

GT BF Weekend vendor

Smiling vendors great visitors to the Faire under sunny skies Friday afternoon.

GT BF volunteer kitchen

Three shifts of volunteers prepare meals for Faire staff and other volunteers in the sheltered, cozy kitchen.

GT BF Refrigerator

Volunteer Kitchen Coordinator Michael “Buffalo” Mazzetti shows off a large storage unit turned into a walk-in refrigerator with a CoolBot air conditioning unit.

GT BF Orbitron

Sonny May of Spokane, age eight, enjoys spinning upside down and all around on the Orbitron, a popular attraction for kids and adults of all ages.

 

 

Steve Pollard, Sandy Vaughn, Deb Vestor and Miguel, all from Chesaw, entertain from the Solar Stage on Friday. They braved the falling snows  to perform again the next morning.

Steve Pollard, Sandy Vaughn, Deb Vestor and Miguel, all from Chesaw, entertain from the Solar Stage on Friday. They braved the falling snows to perform again the next morning.

Jessie Cook of Tonasket, showing off one of her cut-glass creations, has been attending the Faire the past 24 years.

Jessie Cook of Tonasket, showing off one of her cut-glass creations, has been attending the Faire the past 24 years.