Wash. Fire Victims Continue with Apple Pie Jamboree

Aug. 10--PATEROS -- Organizers of this year's Pateros Apple Pie Jamboree didn't have to worry about offending fire victims by deciding to host the annual event three weeks after a wildfire ripped through this small town.

That's because they are the victims.

The event's longtime treasurer and first-year Jamboree Jog chairman both lost homes in the Carlton Complex fires on July 17.

Vendors, organizers of the benefit motorcycle ride, and of the postponed bass tournament all had stories of how this fire disrupted their lives and traditions.

"Everybody either lost something or knows somebody who lost something," said Jamboree President Tracy Miller, whose niece and brother-in-law also had homes destroyed in the fire.

But Saturday's mood did not betray their loss.

This 67th annual jamboree was initially cancelled, coming just two days after the fires left some 40 homes destroyed in town, and an estimated 100 more within the Pateros School District -- nearly half of the fire's 322 homes destroyed.

But when the Samaritan Riders of Washington State offered to share the park they had booked for a horseshoe tournament three weeks later, organizers decided it was time to take a break from the devastation and celebrate.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, guys on personal watercraft were zooming around on the Columbia River, setting up buoys for two days of racing. Vendors were setting up booths, and motorcyclists from far and wide arrived for a 100-mile ride that would take them through the fire ravaged areas in Pateros, Malott, and the Methow Valley.

Korie Johansen, a co-founder of the Samaritan Riders of Washington state, cheerfully checked in riders, and gratefully accepted their donations to fire victims. The benefit ride was a last-minute effort, she said.

Johansen lives in Tonasket, but she owns a home in Pateros that was destroyed by the fire, right behind the Pateros High School. Her renters lost everything.

She said she was raised in Pateros and the Methow Valley. "We pretty much know everyone," she said. But despite the terrible losses, "You gotta laugh and make the best of it," she said. "It's amazing what the community has done. We just praise God that nobody was hurt. That's what's important."

Nearby, Shannon Stanley Hampe was setting up her booth of jewelry she makes with fishing lures, called A-Lures, with her mother, Joni Parks.

Hampe is a volunteer firefighter, and three weeks ago was planning to take a day off from battling the Carlton Complex fires so she could do her part for the Jamboree -- help organize the annual Ray Stanley Memorial Bass Tournament always held during Apple Pie.

The tournament was renamed after her father after he won it in 1995, and then drowned while fishing three weeks later.

For the last 22 years, she said, she's gotten up at 3 a.m. to check in fishermen and kick off the Apple Pie Jamboree's first event.

This year, she had been out fighting fires, and that Friday night was the first night she really got to sleep. "I woke up at 6 a.m., and thought, it's 6 a.m. on the third Saturday of July." She realized there was no Jamboree, and no bass tournament. "It was sad. It was really sad," she said.

The postponed Apple Pie happened too quickly to organize the bass tournament this weekend, she said, so it's now scheduled to happen during Pateros' hydroplane races on Aug. 23.

But Hampe wasn't about to let this lost tradition dampen her spirits, dressing as a pirate and entertaining kids who happened by her booth.

Likewise, Marcell McArthur wasn't going to let his burned-down residence prevent him from organizing his first Jamboree Jog. When his home was destroyed in the fire, so were all the registration forms and competitor numbers. And, the jog's route made its way through the residential area hit hard by the fire.

McArthur opted to forge ahead with a less-organized event -- an unofficial run along a different route.

Playing horseshoes as the Jamboree got going Saturday morning, McArthur said, "I think it's important to have continuation of what you do -- inject some normalcy into people's lives," he said. "The heart of the community -- our spirit -- isn't broken," he said.

Just ask Rosie Allison, longtime treasurer for the Apple Pie Jamboree.

With a 50-year class reunion in Sumner this year, and her 50th wedding anniversary, Allison actually planned to take this year off from her duties.

"I didn't think I'd be able to devote 100 percent," she said. So a new treasurer stepped up, and she agreed to help from the sidelines.

When the fire came, Allison and her husband evacuated in their small RV. "We went up towards Wells Dam to spend the night, thinking we'd come back to the house and it would be business as usual," she said.

Now, she said, her house is "about a foot and a half tall. We lost everything but the Apple Pie Jamboree," she said.

That didn't stop her from jumping in to help when organizers decided to hold the event three weeks later.

Miller said her only reservation about having the festival this year was asking any more of people who had already given so much. "The ones that had lost everything, the ones that had lost half of everything -- everybody was already up there organizing the supplies" and providing relief to victims, she said.

Miller said this year's celebration is in large part in gratitude for what Pateros still has.

"We have so much more than we thought we were going to have when we left town," she said. Miller said when everyone evacuated that night, it felt like the whole town was burning down. Fire had crossed Highway 97 into the business district, and people had seen flames behind the high school, and approaching the church. "I would have sworn we would have nothing left."

Reach K.C. Mehaffey at 509-997-2512 or mehaffey@wenatcheeworld.com. Read her blog An Apple a Day or follow her on Twitter at @KCMehaffeyWW.

Copyright 2014 - The Wenatchee World, Wash.