Okanogan County Fair positions eliminated

Changes just part of a ‘bigger plan,’ official says

Okanogan County commissioners’ decision to eliminate two employee positions at the fairgrounds last week has been met with some outrage.

May Festival features full lineup

Traditional May Pole Dance set for Saturday afternoon

This weekend’s 80th annual May Festival will feature a weekend-long lineup of events from royalty coronation to a parade, basketball tournament, bass tournament and the traditional May Pole Dance.

Colorama returns with parade, races and more

Pro-West rodeo performances are Friday, Saturday

Colorama Festival returns this week for its 57th year with popular activities, from a carnival to a parade, helicopter rides, races and more.

Bustam named Colville National Forest district ranger

Tinelle Bustam named district ranger with Colville National Forest

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Girls' art to hang in congressional offices

Two East Valley High School seniors' works of art have been selected as the best in the Fifth Congressional District's 2014 Congressional Art Competition.

Woman accused of kidnapping

Two boys, ages 9 and 11, allegedly threatened with knife, Taser

An Omak woman has been charged with holding two boys under a bed for several hours and threatening to kill them after accusing one of the boys of sexually assaulting her 3-year-old daughter.

April 30, 2014- Our View "Bigfoot coming to your home"

This week, our shopper takes on a whole new look in Okanogan County. As part of The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle’s continued growth strategy, our Bottomline shopper has been renamed Bigfoot Ads.

April 30, 2014- Marriage Licenses

From Okanogan County Auditor’s Office Maria Renee Brown, 24, and Kadance Dale Kuder, 24, both of Helena, Mont. Tamra Nicole Dias, 27, and Hank Louis Avena, 47, both of Brewster.

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Wild Horses: Highlands herds cause concern

Some want animals rounded up and removed

A half-dozen bands of feral horses are roaming the hills, trampling range land and potentially posing a health risk to other livestock. They’re not wild mustangs, but instead are former domestic animals or their offspring. And they’re causing conflict and consternation among local residents, and frustration for law enforcement officials. “People seem to think animals can adapt to their environment. They take a domestic horse out there, and they expect that” the horse can fend for itself, said Deputy Dave Yarnell, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office’s designated animal officer. But newly released horses, accustomed to having human contact and bales of hay put out for them, don’t know what to do on their own. “They forage around. They don’t know where the shelter is, where the dangers are,” he said. He estimated there are 70-100 feral horses in the Aeneas Valley area of the Okanogan Highlands, and there have been reports of such animals in other parts of north Okanogan County. “We have had several reports over the years with wild horses, especially in that area,” Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said. “We have rounded up some over the years. There are a lot more up there.” Yarnell said feral horses can be a problem for ranchers. They eat forage on cattle grazing lands, thus making less for the cattle and stressing the land; get into springs developed for the cattle; trample native grasses; spread noxious weed seeds; damage wildlife habitat, and spread disease to other animals. One emaciated, feral horse showed up on someone’s property recently and collapsed. It was so sick it couldn’t move its head. “We thought at first it had strangles, which is highly contagious,” Yarnell said. Strangles is a bacterial upper respiratory disease also known as equine distemper. Further investigation showed the horse had an impacted molar, which led to further infection. The horse couldn’t eat and pretty much starved. It had to be put down. “That’s an example of what can happen. They can spread disease or they can suffer if injured,” he said. Another problem is with stallions, which lead the feral horse herds. They can impregnate pedigreed horses owned by breeders. Yarnell said one breeder had to abort several mares after a feral stallion visited the domestic herd. “We’ve had ranchers threaten to shoot them, but that might bring in predatory animals,” he said. “Besides, we don’t want dead horses everywhere.” On the other extreme, some people in the area feed the horses but don’t really own them. As long as the horses have the ability to move across the range, they’re considered feral. “It’s illegal for people to allow them to run at large, but there’s no crime to enforce unless the horse is branded,” Yarnell said. At that point, for branded animals, the state brand inspector can get involved. Rogers said responsibility for dealing with the feral horses lies with his office, but the costs involved can be prohibitive. The department has had a designated animal deputy, who also has other patrol duties, for less than a year and no additional budget for animal control. “We do what we can,” he said. “Deputy Yarnell has been working on this issue for several months and is trying to organize something to go and round up the horses. The biggest problem is money, but we are doing what we can.” Yarnell said a roundup looked promising for a while, when a non-profit rescue operation in Stevens County offered to come in, corral the horses and take them to be trained and adopted. “We started to put together a plan, then we found out they had some legal problems,” he said. He checked into having a professional roundup organization come in but was given a ballpark quote of $80,000 to $120,000. “It’s totally cost-prohibitive for the county to hire someone,” he said. In the meantime, Yarnell said the county encourages ranchers and interested parties to round up horses on an individual basis. “If they’re captured, people can keep them or take them to the sale yard,” he said. “The county can’t just house them.” He said the Sheriff’s Office can help facilitate roundups, and asks that he be kept in the loop if horses are rounded up. “We need to know they’re no longer at large,” he said. One ranch in the area did round up some of the horses, but eventually turned them back to the range when others in the area complained. Some people in the area don’t want the horses removed, but that’s not really a solution because of the range and health issues involved, Yarnell said. Nourishing Hand, a north end shelter with which the county contracts to care for abandoned and seized horses on a short-term, doesn’t have the facilities to deal with the feral horses, Yarnell said. There’s also been talk of creating a wild horse refuge, but that also poses problems since the horses then would be considered “owned,” he said. “How do you contain horses that don’t respect fences?” he said. “You need lots of land. Perimeter security would be needed.” The feral horses generally are well fed and in adequate health. “They’ve learned to adapt, but they’re mostly skittish,” he said. “Since it’s such a long-term situation, many are wild-born.” Compounding the problem is the continued dumping of horses. A couple showed up in Tunk Valley just recently. “People need to realize abandoning them is animal cruelty,” Yarnell said. “If they are caught in the act, there are serious consequences,” including felony prosecution. Okanogan County isn’t alone in having to deal with feral horses. The Colville Indian Reservation also is home to herds of such animals. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ range office estimates there are around 1,000 feral horses on the reservation. The tribe recently received a $10,000 BIA grant for a count of the horses during the tribe’s annual helicopter count of game populations. BIA estimates every feral horse eats around 25 pounds of forage a day, or nearly 4.5 tons per year per horse.

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Egg hunters win prize baskets

Children turn out for Easter egg hunts

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History buffs locate infamous "Dead Horse Cliff"

Okanogan County Historical Society expedition puts location on the map

It’s the stuff folklore is made of: Homesteaders fed up with wild horses eating all the foliage make a secret pact to round them up, run them off a cliff and then disappear back into their country life.

Omak man sentenced in deer decapitations

Garret Elsberg pleads guilty, gets 5-year sentence

A 25-year-old Omak man was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay more than $24,000 in penalties and restitution for illegally hunting deer.

Vintage Faire is Saturday

Shoppers can get their ‘junk fix’

Vendors from all over the Northwest are expected for Saturday’s fourth annual Vintage Faire. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds, 175 Rodeo Trail Road. ‘ “It’s great to offer such a great venue for people’s junk fix,” said Kris Little, one of the event’s three organizers. The 50-plus vendors will offer antiques, salvaged items, jewelry, vintage goods, repurposed wares, farm junk and furniture. Booths will be in the beef barn, commercial building, the north end of the home economics building and outside. “Glampers” will offer items for glamorous, vintage-style camping. Food and beverage will be offered in the CattleWomen’s red barn and a “Blue Ribbon Bar” will be open in the grassy midway area. Beverages and an ice cream stand area also planned. Music will be provided by a brass band and a guitarist. A Vintage Faire Store will offer souvenirs, including hooded sweatshirts, beer cozies, antique replica toys, candy, canvas shopping bags and a photo booth at which people can dress up and take photos. “You could spend a whole day” at the faire shopping, eating and watching other shoppers, Little said. Last year’s faire drew around 2,300 people. “Every year we get more,” Little said. “It’s grown. It’s blown away our expectations.” “It brings in a lot more people to the fairgrounds and the community,” fairgrounds clerk Loretta Houston said. “It’s awesome. I can’t wait.” She said the faire is one of the bigger events at the fairgrounds, with several buildings and the outdoor area used. The RV area also sees increased use during the weekend. Little said some people bring wagons or wheeled wire shopping carts to haul away their purchases. Members of the Okanogan High School wrestling team will be on hand to carry larger items to vehicles in exchange for a donation to their team club. The Vintage Faire was started by five women “who love to junk” and wanted to share that love with others, Little said. Other founders are Tria Skirko, Brooke Somes, Teresa Sheeley and Kelly Buchert. Sheeley and Buchert have since bowed out of the faire. “We are just in awe that it worked,” Little said. “Now, people look forward to it.” Vendors are expected from Okanogan County and other Eastern Washington locales, and as far away as Idaho and Oregon. Shoppers come from all over the Northwest and into Canada. The organizers use a jury process to select vendors for a mix of vintage and handcrafted items. “We have pretty high standards,” Little said. Buying vintage items “can be an addiction” as shoppers hunt for specific items, great buys and things they didn’t know they needed, she said. It’s also a social event, as people greet friends they haven’t seen for awhile. “A lot will just sit and watch what other people bring out” in the way of purchases, Little said. “Some watch and giggle. Last year, one guy was out in the parking lot, tailgating, while waiting for his wife.”

It takes a village to dye Easter eggs

Eagles Club puts out 80 dozen eggs for annual hunt

It takes a lot of people to dye 80 dozen eggs. For the past eight years, the Quad City Eagles have enlisted the help of area residents of all ages to help get ready for the annual Easter egg hunt in Marina Park, 801 Jefferson Ave. It’s a big job, with hundreds of children turning out for the Saturday morning event. Volunteers prepare the hard-boiled eggs, stuff even more plastic eggs with candy and create prize baskets. This week, help came from about 15 residents at Harmony House Health Care Center, 100 River Plaza in Brewster, as well as parents, other adult volunteers and the children themselves. “They enjoy it. They look forward to it,” said Harmony House Activities Director Melody Ervin. Donning their bunny ears for the occasion, Harmony House residents made quick work of 15 dozen eggs. “I think it’s fun doing this,” resident Gwen Armbruster said as she dipped an egg into blue dye Wednesday afternoon. “I always enjoyed helping my kids color eggs. This makes us remember doing it with our kids.” Eagles member Pat Schweigert said dying eggs with the seniors every year is “just as much fun as doing it with the kids.” “To me, the most fun part is seeing them with their ears,” she said. “And they just love it, and that’s what it’s all about.” Ervin said the residents also fill plastic eggs with candy for an Easter egg hunt hosted at Harmony House for the employees’ children. “It gets them into the spirit of Easter,” Ervin said. “Of course they eat a few (pieces of candy). Why not?” “I enjoy watching them,” Ruby Field, president of the residents’ council, said of the children who visit. Thursday at the Eagles Club, 1030 Columbia Ave., there was a bigger turnout this year of children looking to ingest some sugar and paint 65 dozen eggs. “I’m making a bunch of Seahawk-colored eggs,” 5-year-old T.J. Mosier declared as he plopped two more eggs into cups of green and blue dye. Other children didn’t seem to have a particular coloring method. “I’m just colliding colors together,” said Cambria Swogger, 11, of Bridgeport. She and Estrella Toga, 11, carefully applied dye to their eggs using brushes. Toga said this was her first time coloring eggs at the Eagles. “It’s so random,” she said of her technique, swirling a brush through paint. “I’m just going with the flow.” Eagles member and egg hunt coordinator Dianne Sleeper said she thought this year’s event was a success. “The kids all had fun, they did a great job,” she said. “Thanks to all the adults who came and helped.” While children listened to high-tempo dance music, ate cookies and drank juice, they were careful to avoid the pool table where 30 prize baskets sat waiting for Saturday’s hunt. Ten baskets would go to the winners in each of three age groups: 1-3, 4-6 and 7-8. While the egg-coloring events are a fairly new tradition, the Eagles’ egg hunt has been ongoing for more than a decade, Sleeper said, noting that it usually draws families from Brewster and other towns as well. Easter egg hunts were planned in several area towns Saturday, including Pateros, Mansfield, Omak, Tonasket, Grand Coulee, Riverside, Winthrop, Conconully and Oroville. Egg hunts are planned today at 10 a.m. in Nespelem at the Colville Tribal Convalescent Center, 1 Convalescent Center Blvd., and at 1 p.m. in Republic at the Eagle Track Raceway, on Airport Road south of town.

Peru’s children take hold

Omak teacher seeks help providing basic school supplies

We never expected our trip to Peru to have such a hold on us so quickly. For those of you who have traveled to Third World countries, Peru was typical in its presentation: Dogs roam the streets, old people sit on corners selling whatever produce they have and rusted tin roofs cover adobe buildings that house families and businesses. The buses, called “combis” in Peru, are overcrowded, dirty and in need of repair, but still managed to keep some sort of schedule. It is all typical of abject poverty, and survival at its baseline. For 12 days, my boyfriend and I were able to explore a part of Peru that was noticeably lacking in tourists. The area is known as Cotahuasi Canyon. It is located 100 miles north-northeast of the city of Arequipa in southern Peru. It is not jungle, but high mountain desert of the Andes. The Cotahuasi River runs its length. It is considered the deepest canyon in the world, being twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The terrain is very steep, with single-lane dirt roads. Farming is done on terraces that have ancient irrigation systems for watering. Amaranth, quinoa, potatoes and corn are grown in abundance. The scenery and the people, despite their lack of money or amenities, are welcoming. We had a guide to help us through this remote region. Marcio Ruiz is a veteran on Cotahuasi Canyon and took us to many places that, alone, I would not have been brave enough to attempt. One of these places was called Puyca (pronounced poo-ee-cah). Puyca lies at the top of a long road off the valley floor. The road up is not for the faint of heart. It literally zigzags its way up the face of the mountain, with travelers stopping to ensure they can make the switchback or tossing rocks off the road so others could pass. It’s a single lane – straight down on one side, straight up on the other. It takes about an hour and a half to scale the mountain in the combi. The village of Puyca lies on a little plateau on the top. I was so grateful to arrive safely and unload the 51 people from our little combi van. As we unloaded, we were greeted by groups of children running up and down the dirt road chasing after two bicycle tires. One tire had no rim and the other was from a broken bicycle that still had the handlebars attached to the front wheel, with the rest of the bike gone. They were, as children, having a blast rolling these down a small hill. There were no playgrounds or other toys being held or played with. We were guided to our hostel up a harrow valley, through a gate and into a courtyard. The children there were being washed off on the dirt floor in the center of the 8- foot by 10-foot “house,” using a basin – what we term as a “spit bath.” They were getting ready for school. Puyca has a school for the youngest children. It is a kindergarten that schools 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds. The older children must ride the combi up and down the mountain every day to go to school in the village of Alca. They knew I was a preschool teacher, so we were invited to view the school and interact with the children. The school houses 47 students, divided into three classrooms by age. The biggest class was the 5-year-olds. It was so hard to view this. I was dismayed that there was nothing in any of the classrooms. The 5-year-old room had two tables with a few chairs, a bulletin board with the words “bien viendo” written on it (they started school this month), and a few decorations hung from the ceiling. Some children were playing with a set of animal hats that were dirty and torn, other shared the 10 Duplo blocks. There were a few crayons, broken, in a bowl the teacher held. That was all. There were no pencils that I could see, no glue or paste, no toy center, no books and certainly no coloring area. One little boy summed up the absence of classroom tools as he clutched four markers that had no lids, and were obviously dried up. I asked, through our guide, if there were more markers. The teacher replied that there had been markers about six months ago, but they were gone. This little boy loved them so much that he refused to let them go. This brought both my boyfriend and me to tears. How could children hope for a better life when the very basics that we take for granted were missing? It was then that my boyfriend and I decided to make a difference for that boy and his classmates. Markers, crayons, maybe even a few coloring books, would be such a gift to these children, a gift we can provide. It’s not easy to get packages anywhere in this region of Peru. The postal system does not work as ours does. With the help of our guide, though, we have managed to find a way. We can send a package to the main town of Cotahuasi. The postmaster there lives in Alca and will take the package with him. From there, he will ensure it gets on the combi to Puyca, where it will be picked up by the equivalent of the mayor, who will hand deliver it to the school. I write this as an invitation for our community to become involved and make a difference to one child, if not many. New markers with the basic eight colors, boxes of large crayons with the basic eight colors, coloring books that have single pictures of animals, trucks or scenery – not Disney or movie-based books, as these kids have no idea what they are – plain paper, glue sticks and colored or plain pencils would be used to help these children learn to read and write, besides making them excited to go to school. Your donation of these items can be brought to Children’s House Montessori, 521 Jasmine St. Our school will be enclosing a letter to the children of Puyca, inviting them to become pen pals with us. Our trip to Cotahuasi, Peru, and in particular, Puyca, has our hearts forever. It touched that place that holds all children as precious and swells compassion to try to help. The need is great, but so is our ability. Marla Garr is a teacher at Children’s House Montessori in Omak. She and her boyfriend, Rick Dineen of Colville, traveled to Peru March 12-25 to hike and explore. They hired a guide, who learned she is a teacher and arranged the visit to Puyca’s school.