By Joanna Bastian
“Well, Twisp had a rodeo, Brewster had a derby, and Pateros had to have something too, so they started the Apple Pie Jamboree,” Bill Meadows said, leaning back in his kitchen chair and remembering the summer of 1947.
Phil and Joan Brownlee joined in, describing the Indian stick games, live music, parade and the apple pie. “It started out as a community picnic,” Joan explained.
Bill, Phil and Joan all graduated from Pateros High School together in 1954. They can remember every single Apple Pie Jamboree — in part because they all have helped in some way or another in every event since the beginning. Joan has kept scrapbooks of the jamboree over the years, which are on display at the Pateros museum.
The original bylaws of the jamboree state that all event proceeds are to support the youth of Pateros. Proceeds from the first jamboree went to the hospital. One year, a young boy drowned in the mill pond. In response, the community committed the proceeds from the jamboree to pay for swimming lessons for all of the kids in Pateros. Over the years, jamboree proceeds have supported swimming and ski lessons, lights on the sports field, fair projects, summer camps and more.
The cataclysmic flood of 1948 put the jamboree on hold until 1950. The jamboree had a good run for the next seven years until 1957, when the subject of water again overwhelmed the community. Talks had begun about building Wells Dam, a project that would create Lake Pateros and drown the town. It was a time of tense arguments in Pateros. The townspeople spent the decade relocating. Main Street, the site of past jamboree parades, was at the bottom of Lake Pateros.
In 1969, Bill started up the jamboree again with the help of friends. Putting the new lake to good use, they brought hydroplane races to the jamboree. By the 1980s, Phil, Joan and Bill’s wife, Rebecca, joined in the jamboree planning with other volunteers for the next two decades.
Some years, things didn’t quite go as planned. Take, for instance, the year they imagined 16 water skiers wearing shirts that spelled A-P-P-L-E P-I-E-J-A-M-B-O-R-E-E. “It took us two weeks of practice,” Bill said, “and we couldn’t find enough skiers that could stay up in the turbulence behind the boat!” He laughed, “Never tried that again!”
Joan recalled sitting around the kitchen table one Sunday afternoon counting out small bills and change from the day’s events. The community had given over $30,000. “Every drop went to the youth of Pateros,” said Rebecca, “there were no vendors, and everything was done by volunteers.”
Typically, on Monday through Wednesday before the jamboree, the community gathered together to clean up the town. Volunteers, including kids, would meet at the school kitchen to assemble hundreds of apple pies. “Everybody worked so hard for the kids, it was so worth it,” Rebecca said, “and it was the one time of year everyone got together.” Joan went into further detail about the multiple class reunions that had become a tradition of the jamboree, “It was a big thing to see your classmates and get together,” she said.
The Pateros tradition of raising funds to support youth programs continues this weekend, starting with apple pie and ice cream in the park on Friday (July 14) at 6 p.m. Saturday (July 15) is packed with a Color Run, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, live music, parade, quilt show, jet ski races, sloppy joes, fireworks and more. Sunday (July 16) wraps up with breakfast in the park, a volleyball tournament and a car show. For information and the event schedule, visit www.facebook.com/ApplePieJamboree. Come join the fun, and support kids programs in Pateros!