Okanogan Borderlands Historical Society
Spectators walk through the Okanogan County Fair in the mid-1930’s. At that time, the fair was held in Veterans Memorial Park in Oroville. For more historic photos of the fair, see omakchronicle.com.
OKANOGAN— Memories will be made when the Okanogan County Fair opens on Thursday, Sept. 6, and continues through Sunday, Sept. 9. The usual showing of farm animals - cared through the long spring and summer months by countless numbers of county youth - will vie for that special recognition and ribbon. Pets, crafts, flowers and photos, last year numbering in the thousands, will be featured among many other displays
Along with the making of memories will be the sharing of memories by several Okanogan Valley historians, including former Brewster resident, Ralph Fries, grandson of Ulrick E. Fries, author of the book “From Copenhagen to Okanogan: The Autobiography of a Pioneer.” In 2006, Fries began researching and writing a comprehensive history of pioneer families who lived in south Okanogan County near his grandfather’s homestead.
“There are 429 homes within a 15-mile radius of my grandfather’s place,” said Fries, who has compiled hundreds of stories and photos about early life in the South Okanogan areas of the Chiliwist, North Star, Paradise Hill, Harmony Heights/Wilson, Brewster/Brewster Flats, College Flats/Davis Canyon, and Monse.
Fries is bringing his collection, now in the custody of the Brewster School District, to “The Pioneer Project” in the Commercial building at this year’s fair. The display will be mounted on a series of 4x8-foot poster boards displayed on easels provided by BHS.
Among Fries’ subjects are prominent pioneer women, and Native American personalities whose stories form part of the fabric of early homestead life.
There is the story of 13-year-old North Star resident Jimmy Fehlhaber who was attacked and killed in1924 while walking between farms in an area now called Cougar Canyon.
Fries grew up in Brewster and graduated BHS in 1955. Following vocational school and a 20-year naval career, he became an owner-operator trucker. On one of his road trips in 1986, Fries saw the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall and was inspired to spearhead a similar recognition for Coast Guard and Navy war casualties.
From 1998 through 2002, Fries coordinated the creation of the USN/USCG Vietnam Unit Me-morial Monument and U.S. Navy River Patrol Forces’ Three Boat Display at the Naval Amphibi-ous Base in Coronado, California. It lists those Vietnam era service casualties from 1960-1975 by full name, rank or rate, home or record, and date and location of death.
Fries still performs the intensive legwork to verify each new entry added to the memorial.
“It takes about five years from time you receive a name until he is added to the Wall,” said Fries of the lengthy process. When approved, the name is added on Memorial Day.
While Fries was compiling his pioneer histories, he hosted an annual North Star Pie Social at the Fries homestead from 2006-2014 where he presented his work in progress. The 2014 Carlton Complex wildfire destroyed his body of work that he has since restored from computer archives.
In 2017, Fries became the 12th BHS alumnus since 1915 inducted into the district’s Wall of Fame in recognition of his achievements and service to the community. His south Okanogan history project has found a permanent home at BHS where the administration hopes to incorporate the material into its history curriculum.
Appearing with Fries at The Pioneer Project will be a north county exhibit of maps and photos of more than 60 old school locations plus railroad memorabilia and Okanogan Indian artifacts provided by Kay Sibley of the Old Oroville Depot Museum. Also featured will be the Okanogan Language Preservation Program, affiliated with Wenatchee Valley College and the Colville Con-federated Tribes.
Presentations on Saturday, Sept. 8 include:
1 p.m. – Kay Sibley speaking about orchardist Okanogan Smith.
2 p.m. – Carol Buswell, National Archives Education Specialist, on how to access and navigate the National Archives.
Arnie Marchand, Colville tribal and north County historian will be present Sept. 6-9.
Another Fair addition this year is Horse Nation, the National Indian Relay Races. Racing will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, and Sunday, Sept. 9. The winner will advance fee-free to the national finals at Walla Walla on Sept. 21-23.