Submitted photo George Fuller, a barber who later worked in maintenance for the Okanogan schools.
Submitted photo Scarborough kids win with a Spirit of ‘76 entry.
Submitted photo Ken Crandall, an early winner
By Marion Bennett
Okanogan Centennial Planning Committee
The first Okanogan pet parade on June 4, 1938, sponsored by American Legion Post No. 56, was the brainchild of George Fuller.
Fuller, a local barber, proposed the parade as a means of encouraging Okanogan County children, ages 14 and younger, to display their pets, decorated bikes, trikes, doll buggies or wagons.
Fuller and co-chairman Frank Stark visited local schools to explain the rules for entrants and to describe rewards for the winners. Each participant received a prize.
One year it was a ticket to the motion picture "Snow White." Another year a shiny dime, and still another an ice cream bar.
In addition, special prizes were awarded for the best decorated float, comic exhibition, groomed pet, most original exhibit, smallest unattended child with pet (by weight), smallest pet, largest pet, best dog, best cat, best bird/fowl, best rabbit, best horse and best other pet, such as a "horned toad or flea."
The May 28, 1938, issue of the Okanogan Independent (last regularly printed in 1973) sported a full-page advertisement describing the activities of the big event - the first annual pet parade in the morning, and the second annual Soap Box Derby race in the afternoon.
This also was the era when one could buy "chic summer dresses at $1.95 to $5.95" or "two pounds of peanut butter for 23 cents."
The city swimming pool was open and Jantzen bathing suits could be purchased at Blackwell's, priced from $2.25 to $6.95.
Ken Crandall and Joyce Hedington Halterman were a couple of the early winners.
In 1942, the United States was deeply involved in the second World War, but the May 22 Okanogan Independent announced that the fifth annual Okanogan Pet Parade would start at 3 p.m. on the following Saturday.
It would feature a patriotic theme with the new Junior Drum Corps leading the "Victory Parade." Little girls twirling batons and dressed in blue would follow the marchers.
The May 29 paper said the event was five blocks long and deemed the parade a great success. The prize for the most original costume ($1 in war stamps) went to Dan Bertrand and Buddie Moses, who together dressed as a circus horse.
That same newspaper had a brief story about a meeting of local fire wardens who had been appointed to fight fires set by "enemy agents."
The May 27, 1948, Independent announced that the 11th annual pet parade would be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 5. It also reported that a boy and girl, 6 years or younger, would be chosen from previously submitted pictures as a king and queen of the event with the winners receiving a small, engraved loving cup.
First prize for the best parade entry would be a bicycle and second prize, the George Fuller award, would be $10.
However, 1948 was the year of big floods in the Pacific Northwest, and the Okanogan Valley was not spared from the devastation. Not one word about the parade appeared in the next Independent, June 3.
Later in the summer, the July 17 paper carried a brief story that "the pet parade committee, chaired by Dr. M.L. Ledgerwood, would proceed with plans for the annual affair which was postponed because of the flood. The committee is expected to set a date for late summer or early fall."
While Okanogan did designate July 22-24 as Bargain Days for a town celebration that year, there was no further news suggesting the pet parade as part of that or any later event.
By 1958, the community was celebrating the 19th pet parade under the chairmanship of Don Chalmers. That year there were 191 entries, with Rick and Jan Ullrich winning the sweepstakes award of $15.
In 1968, with 30 years under its belt, the parade boasted more than 200 participants. It was part of the "May Daze" celebration May 16-18.
The George Fuller award went to the Scarborough family and the most unusual pet award went to Tom Doering. The May 23 issue of the Independent contained a full page of pictures of parade participants - however no names were given.
Fuller, 71, died at the Veterans' Hospital in Spokane, according to the June 1, 1961, Independent. He had been in failing health for several years, but the parade held that year is believed to be the first one he had missed.
As the founder and promoter of the annual pet parade in Okanogan, Fuller had always been a strong supporter of the event.
He had trained young men and boys from Okanogan to take part in the drum and bugle corps he organized, and taught them precision marching so that they could be called on to participate in local affairs. He encouraged girls to join the community activities by teaching them baton twirling, and both of these groups had taken part in the annual pet parades.
Fuller moved to Okanogan from Iowa and joined his sister, Mary M. Rhodes, who had come to the valley earlier. He worked in Okanogan as a barber before joining the military in World War I. He served for a time with Harry S Truman.
He had a brief reunion with Truman many years later when the president was on a campaign swing through the area.
Membership in the American Legion post dwindled by the 1970s, so the Okanogan Chamber of Commerce took over sponsorship of the weekend events, including the pet parade.
Eventually adults joined the children in the annual parade down Okanogan's main street, and finally the pet part of the event disappeared completely. A George Fuller memorial kids' parade was revived in the 1980s, disappeared later, but was brought back last year.
The centennial committee is trying to revive interest in the pet parade, thinking it could once again become a vibrant and colorful part of the annual celebrations.
Whether we identify these good times as May Daze, Bargain Days, Sunny Okanogan Days, Rendezvous or simply Okanogan Days, children and parents alike can look back on those warm summer times as a lot of work, a lot of fun and a lot of good memories.