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Tonasket Barter Faire

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Hal R's picture
Joined: Jun 13 2007
Nice one capt tapes

Makes me feel like I'm there again. All that is missing is the three days of breathing and wearing the dust in the wind.

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
William Blake

marye's picture
Joined: May 26 2007
say more

about this event!

Walstib's picture
Joined: Jun 23 2007

Really, you have us captivated now share some more!!!!!!!

Never had such a good time...........

capt tapes's picture
Joined: Jun 21 2007
Tonasket Barter Fair

greeting friends, just found these comments. I think the first barter fair in the Great Pacific Northwest was back in 76 or 78. It has been an annual event ever since. There are now many locations all coordinated to avoid too much overlap so you could make it a fall tour. Tonasket is the grandmother of fairs with others being held in Northport, Washington. Santa, Idaho. Montana and Ruch, Oregon. Kind folks come together for several days peaking on a weekend for music food and shatring of their artwork and that which they have brought forth from the earth's bounty. This website will tell the details better than I
but I put my stamp of super approval on the intangible qualities

capt tapes's picture
Joined: Jun 21 2007
more barter fair info

capt tapes
I stand corrected as far as the first fair, what the hey? I have a hard time rememberring evrythiing that happenned back then

Barter fair history and proposal for 2008 - by Skeeter
Fri, November 30, 2007 - 3:59 PM
Some Okanogan Family Faire input

by Michael Skeeter Pilarski I am the founder of the barter fair (back in 1974) and have attended every year since then.

November 2, 2007

The following input is partly personal and partly as a spokesperson for the northwest corner vendors and communities.

Dear barter faire friends,

The 2007 Okanogan Family Faire was a positive step forward in my eyes and many others have echoed my sentiments. Every faire has its share of good stories and bad stories. This year the problem crowd seemed to get smaller instead of larger.

My thanks to the many people who worked hard on this year’s faire; Peter James, Steve, Erol, Harvey, Mikel, John, Sadie, etc, etc. One of the high points of the faire for me was seeing Sundog playing music and singing at the Northwest corner hospitality fire.

Barter Faire Proposal

No amplified stage in 2008. No amplified bands. No DJ’s.

Why? To reduce the draw of the faire to party-goers.

This is not a question of do you personally like the stage and the amplified music or not. The question is whether this is good for the faire overall.

Perhaps an acoustic stage with educational and spiritual components. Emphacise the fireside music. The fireside jams of the barter fair have always been with us since the start.

A bit of stage history. The stage developed at a late stage in the faire’s history. Only after the current site was purchased. Perhaps the 2nd year after the site was purchased. Circa 21st faire. The first few years the stage was located at the northwest corner. Next the stage moved to a spot just west of the main fair entrance. I always set up my booth near the stage for these first two moves, so I could dance, listen to the music and mind my booth at the same time.

Then the stage moved to a location just east of the main faire entrance. Up to that point there were a few booths aimed at the stage crowd but nothing like the stage vendor area nowadays.

Then the stage moved to the south end of the faire and a more permanent stage was built. About 5 years ago. Now there is a suite of vendors and food booths who value this location as good for their businesses. Much of it late night business.

A big part of the faire musical scene are the fireside jams. At any given time there are dozens of live music jams going around the faire. Especially campfires at night, but during the day too there is lots of live music. They can range from one to a dozen musicians. Many people sing along.. Participatory entertainment. Another bit of history. For a long period of time, there was a traditional singing circle at the yurt set up by David Kliegman. Dorio Fitzpatrick, Sandy, Hannah, Deb Vester, Karen, and other women hosted the sing-along.

Look at the Okanogan Family Faire in a larger context. The OFF is one of the premier gatherings on the West Coast of the USA. Some of the others include the Oregon Country Fair, Vancouver Music Festival, Seattle Folklife Festival, Bioneers, and several dozen other events. What gets gatherings on the list? Longevity, size and spirit among other things.

What makes the OFF stand out? It has a long history, 34 years. It has grown over the years. 400 people at the first one in 1974. 2,000 at the 6th one (1979 at Ione in northeast Washington). It first hit 10,000 sometime in the late 1990’s.

What sets the barter faire apart from the other alternative events it that it is a producer’s market. It is based on barter and economic exchange. Many gatherings have stages. For some gatherings the stage is the dominant motif. Many gatherings have vendors. What is unique about the barter faire is that many, if not most, of the vendors produce or grow what they are vending. Just walking around and observing the wide array of things available is an education in itself and one of the primary ingredients for what visitors/participants experience. Imagine a barter faire with only a stage and fast food stands and mass produced goods. That is what the Okanogan Family Faire could turn into if it alienates its core group of vendor/producers.

My contention is that the Okanogan Family Faire is in the process of alienating the very people it needs to survive and keep its spirit. This is not because the current organizers are bad. It is because the faire is getting diluted with too many people who do not share our vision.

Several years ago someone told me of an indigenous spiritual teacher who recommended making a place in your home where you only had items made by yourself or someone you knew. You surrounded yourself with items that had personal history for you. Had meaning and connections with loved ones.
This reverberated within me and I now believe that it is healthy to surround yourself with items made by yourself or loved ones, and eat the food you grew or was grown by people you knew and loved. Your quality of life goes up commensurately. The barter faire is about supplying items made and food grown by friends and acquaintances.

The barter faire is about personal connections. It is about seeing friends. I personally see more friends at the Okanogan Family Faire then any other time of the year. This is its main treasure to me. Not the dollar amount of sales. Not the amount of entertainment. It is about the amount of friends and friendship. It is about building cooperative and life-enhancing exchange between friends.

In the early years it only took a handful of people working ahead of time and then coordinating several dozen volunteers to pull it off. Nowadays there are 20 to 30 main coordinators, Another 100 + dedicated people who put in 16 + hours of work during the event and hundreds of short-term volunteers or work-traders (4-hour work shifts). 30 to 40 people meet throughout the year ahead of time and do on-going work to make the event happen. Some are producers and some are not. They have been involved in putting on the faire for varying amounts of time. Some for decades and some for only a few years.

The northwest corner changes from year to year but there has been quite a bit of continuity for the last decade

Lopez: . Lopez camp does Saturday parking. They maintain a great Saturday night presence with big bonfire and show. It was noted that the Lopez crew has been dwindling the past couple years.

Scotty and the Republic crew. They have been spearheading Thursday circle parking. This year some of the other northwest corner crew helped them do it. The Republic crew puts up a 30x40’ heated, community tent which feeds and serves their crew. A nice example on an area camp.

Northport crew. They have been doing Friday parking. They have been a strong contingent. The size of the Northport/Colville crew was down this year.

The corner of the northwest corner has included Skeeter , Bamboo Marcus, Bellingham, Port Townsend and Methow valley communites. In 2006 we provided about 60 people working a four-hour parking shift (or longer mainly on Friday). This year our numbers were down and we fielded about 40 workers.

Someone made a comment to me this year on Sunday night. They said “The northwest corner was more orderly then other parts of the faire. The booths were close together. There weren’t tents or rigs on the walkway. The streets weren’t too wide nor too narrow. There are few junky booths.” This is because the area is full of old hands who know the layout.

In some parts of the faire the streets are not orderly. There are wide gaps, tents, vehicles, campfires, and in many places the streets are wider then necessary. (with loss of concomittant camping space). There are many kind of 2nd hand booths at the faire. Some have quality. Some are junky. Some junk is good, but in balance.

Some people have been bringing a bit of miscellaneous junk just so they can camp in the vending circle. They don’t tend their booth. They usually have a campfire, tents, vehicles and take up space but don’t have a viable booth.

Part of the solution is too have a big enough vendor parking team to custom fit each vendor. And in the process weed out some of the vendor impersonators. One way to help this process is to expand the role of the hospitality fire host to assist with vendor parking in their area.

There are lots of kinds of vendors at the Okanogan Family Faire.

A. Farmers selling food they have grown/produced.
B. Craftspeople with items they have made.
C. 2nd hand used.
D. Mass-produced goods
E. Imported crafts.
F. Jewelry and stones.
G. Food vendors, from small to large. Baked goods, hot foods, pizza ovens, curly fries, etc.
H. Services like massage, healing, tarot readings, etc.
I. To Z. Many others kinds of vendors. Informational, non-profits.

It is A and B categories that I originally started the barter fair to serve. Diversity is nice, but I hope the first two categories will remain a strong component of the OFF.

As a farmer/producer booth, the party crowd does not buy anything from me. They shop mainly at the fast food stands, the paraphernalia booths and colorful mass-produced goods. What sustains my faire business are the other vendors and their circle of friends. In my neighborhood many booths have a whole camp associated with it. Friends who camp out in back of our part of the circle.

It is great to share the OFF with some of the party crowd, but their numbers have been negatively impacting the faire and me and my friends.

We the farmer and producer vendors, are asking the OFF crew to look out for our interests. Many of us would like to see no amplified stage in 2008.

A few meandering thoughts from the faire founder,


To be continued

A barter fair report. Barter faires offer another type of marketing opportunity for small-scale farmers as well as to many other types of producers. When I started the first barter fair in 1974, it was primarily to serve farmers and gardeners. Nowadays it serves a wide variety of folks. The original barter faire is now the Okanogan Family Faire. This year it attracted around 12,000 people and had a million dollar plus economy. Farm products are now one of many major components. In the last 8 years the Okanogan fair has attracted a large following of young party-goers. This has become a problem for the faire and steps are being taken to reduce this impact.

There are several other barter fairs. The Hope Mountain barter fair in southwest Oregon had over 1,000 people this year and I have heard good things about it.

So, Capt here again, I think I agree about preserving the "spirit of the fair" there have been comments or suggestions for many years about abandoning the amplified stage. One of the greatest things about the fair is all the camp music, I myself prefer wanderring from camp to camp, fire to fire as my soul is drawn to the music and laughter.

Hal R's picture
Joined: Jun 13 2007
hey, there is Skeeter

thanks for posting this capt tapes. We do know some of the same folks. I took a permaculture course from Skeeter and have always been impressed with his knowledge of plants and wildcrafting. Glad that fellow Barter Faire folks visit this site. Peace.

If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
William Blake

capt tapes's picture
Joined: Jun 21 2007
yep for sure it's him

I remember the old places but forget a lot of the names, the old house up out of chesaw I think. I am tryin hard these days to relearn a lot of the magick that was once in my bag of tricks. I think it is time for me to venture north and bring home some of the good seeds that they have grown for so many years.

Joined: Aug 23 2013
Ruch Barter Fair

I was at the Ruch Barter Fair almost 20 years ago (I even helped build Kiddie Village) was wonderful...since then I have moved to Texas, been married, had kids, divorced and re-married and thankfully am back in Oregon today with my family. I have been searching for any information on whether or not they still have a barter fair at Ruch in the fall. I am longing to get back to the way I was and going to Ruch is sooo important to me...can you help me out with any information. I am in Roseburg, OR, if you might know of any events that are close to me I would greatly appreciate it....missing the family...Jodi


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Tonasket Barter Faire