Fair Youth Foundation dissolves ties with county fair

FYP members feel they were held to a higher standard than the Market Stock Fund had been

OKANOGAN COUNTY — The Fair Youth Foundation (FYP) dissolved their partnership with the Okanogan County Fair and the county Board of Commissioners (BOCC) during a regular Okanogan County Fair Advisory Committee meeting held Thursday, Feb. 2.

According to a letter of resignation presented by Rebecca Theis, the FYP was not formed with the agenda of “taking over the fair,” but “have been accused of that by certain fair advisory committee members.”

In her letter, Theis stated the FYP was held to a higher standard than the Market Stock Fund (previous nonprofit) ever had been.

“We will no longer endure the harassment and lack of support to carry on with the livestock sale. If the Market Stock Fund is reinstated, we expect them to be held to the same standards/expectations we were,” said Theis.

“We appreciated the community for stepping up and supporting the youth after a terrible year,” stated Rebecca Theis in the resignation letter. “We were in awe of what was accomplished and gave a great deal of credit to it being the year after the closure and online auction. We hoped to continue to build on the success of the 2021 sale. We never thought that we would be able to surpass that sale by such a big margin as we did for the 2022 auction.”

The letter presented to Okanogan County Fair and the Okanogan County Board of Commissioners states that the 2022 sale broke all records.

“Yet, we still are not supported and continue to receive negative remarks and hostility,” said Theis.

Theis went on to say, “we have constantly had others working against us, including the fairgrounds manager. In her letter, Theis claimed no support other than from a few fair advisory board members,, along with Tucker and Haley Cool. “We are so thankful for the partnership with Tucker and Haley.”

Tucker Cool Best Bid Auctions, LLC said they enjoyed their time working with the kids and community at the Okanogan County Fair Livestock Auction.

“We are proud to be a part of the success realized for the kids and their projects over the last few years. We hope that the growth achieved for the kids continues in the years to come.” said Cool.

Additionally, Theis said the FYF stepped up and formed the nonprofit when others were actively fighting against them and refusing to support a new direction for the livestock sale at the fair.

“Our motives have been questioned and we have taken a lot of abuse, but we pushed on in the hopes that after holding two very successful and record-breaking sales that we would gain the support of exhibitors, families, fair volunteers and the community,”said Theis.

Naomie Peasley, Okanogan County Fair Manager, said the Fair Youth Foundation was instrumental in implementing a new platform for the livestock market sale.

“And with any change, there comes excessive stress that can be overwhelming to volunteers. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the remaining members of the Fair Advisory Committee and the county will pick up the pieces, brush the dirt off and move forward in organizing another extremely successful fair. We are already doing that and are grateful for the many positive volunteers and fair families who continue to persevere to bring the county the best weekend of the year,” said Peasley.

Theis said the county commissioners selected them as the nonprofit, but claimed that Commissioner Andy Hover continued to work alongside the people that were trying to remove them.

“When we have asked for his support and called for accountability for the actions of others our requests go unanswered. When we directed questions to (Commissioner) Chris Branch, he responded and supported our efforts. Unfortunately, Andy Hover has resumed the commissioner seat at the FAC meetings,” said Theis.

The Gazette-Tribune reached out to Commissioner Andy Hover for comment but the attemps were unsuccessful.

Bonnie Theis, who also offered a letter of resignation from her position on the Fair Advisory Committee said she joined the FAC to support something that taught her valuable lessons and was near and dear to her heart growing up. She continued by saying her personal values and integrity prevent her from continuing to serve on the FAC.

“I know why I am leaving. I will not work with people that will hurt others regardless of the cost,” said Bonnie Theis.

“Bonnie and Lori have been a huge asset to the fair committee. They, along with their mother Becky, have been instrumental in the success of the market stock sale in recent years. I commend them for their service,” said Chairman Brock Hires.

Lori Caswell who gave her letter of resignation as well stating the decision to leave the FAC has been “extremely hard.”

“With the lack of professionalism and ethics during meetings, fair, and around the community, have made the decision easier,” said Caswell.

Since day one of taking the FAC position, Caswell said she had a target on her back and received threats from community members telling her to watch her back.

“I’m tired of fighting the ‘Good Ol’ Boy System,’” said Caswell.

Regardless of the challenging times presented by COVID-19, Caswell said the past two auctions were record breaking with the 2022 auction being the biggest and most successful at just under $700,000.

“I’m very proud of what was accomplished over the past several years,” said Caswell.

Caswell concluded by saying, “The Okanogan County Fair will always happen, there needs to be strong leadership, integrity, trust, honesty and no personal gain.”