Clint and Christine Oster’s Yaak Valley Ceramics booth. Photo courtesy of Sandy Miller.
By Brian Baxter
This year, continue your July 4th celebration by attending the seventh Annual Yaak School Arts and Crafts Fair at the Yaak’s historic, one-room school house; one of two remaining in use in northwest Montana. The school is located at 29893 Yaak River Road. Stop by between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 6. There will be lunch items for purchase available from Cabinet Mountain Catering, owned by Raeanne Canavan, who is a former student at the school. There will also be a silent auction, a donation board, and a bake sale to benefit the school. Children’s activities will include games, cookie decorating, and face painting, among other fun things to do, all starting at noon. All proceeds help fund the school’s library and student field trips.
The heart and soul of our beloved Yaak Community is intricately connected with it’s natural environment. These unique folks choose to live in a remote area, and depend, to a degree, on each other to survive. The Yaak residents are a diverse group, with talents as diversified as their backgrounds. As a young man, this reporter lived intermittently in the Yaak. The Yaak Road was only paved up to Seventeen Mile Creek in those days. The Yaak territory drew the most independent of the independent peoples of northwest Montana. On a given night, there were, at times, more horses tied to the railings outside the Dirty Shame than there were trucks parked in the lot. The patrons would somewhat jokingly say that at least the horses knew their way home. Tom Oar coached my trapping partner and I, sharing his extensive knowledge of furbearers. Although we had a canoe line, a horse line, a snowshoe route, and a truck tour for trap sets, we rarely ran into anyone during the winter season. But if we ever needed help in any way, it was there for us.
Four decades later, help is still there for anyone who needs it. Artists and crafters are rallying to help the Yaak School. At this time they are still accepting new vendors, artists of all kinds and talented crafters. So far, the fair will include: knitted and crocheted items; photography; honey; rugs; paintings; pottery; jewelry; hand sewn items; wood stoves; authors; plants; handmade soaps; greeting cards; wooden furniture; wood signs; baked goods; lots of information from local organizations, and Tom and Nancy Oar from the Mountain Man TV show will be available to sign autographs. Some of the unique vendors include the Yaak Women’s Club that has been supporting the school fair for seven years. They will have their booth of hand made items. This year there is a holiday theme and they will be selling raffle tickets for two quilts and organizing the bake sale. Clint and Chris Oster from Yaak Valley Ceramics will also be returning this year. They make pottery and jewelry right in the Yaak, inspired by the beauty of nature. Awesome photographer Randy Beacham of Beacham Photography will have various works for sale also. Randy works hard to hike into the wild heart of the Yaak wilderness to patiently wait, and then capture the essence of sacred mountains, whispering trees, and wildlife.
Sandy Beder-Miller, chief event organizer, told The Montanian, “I’m always inspired to see the willingness of the community to volunteer their time and talents to our local school. Yaak is a community where people take care of each other. We have so many talented people in this area from young children to adults who bake, write, paint, draw, play music, and capture the Yaak through photographs.”
Organizer, Pam Fuqua, explained what community means to the event and school. “Our community volunteers put up tents, make signs, assist vendors with unloading, gather tables, set up displays, deliver coffee, sell cookies, oversee children’s games, and then clean up at the end of the day. Many of our community artists even give some, or all, of their sales income to the school,” she said.
The Yaak school’s new teacher has been busy, to say the least. Sabre’ Burson-Alderete has been fixing up the teacherage building, and making sure the torch of the lead educator is smoothly passed from Rose Kraeger-Wilson, the former beloved head instructor. Sabre is also taking several college credit courses to add to her repertoire of teaching skills. She will be at the fair to manage the donation board and personally thank everyone for their efforts.
To secure a vendor booth for the Yaak School Arts and Crafts Fair, or for more information contact Sandy at iamayaakgirl@ gmail.com or call her at 295-7095 or 334-3083.