Waitsburg festival celebrates in style

Fashion, food and song all had a touch of history and tradition for the town.

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Left to right, the Turner family, Jimmye, Shonee, Danna and Dyani, perform together.

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Shonee Turner plays the mandolin, one of several performers who took part in the 39th annual festival.

WAITSBURG -- For decades, pigeon-breasted blouses, buffalo and barbershop quartets have been a big part of the Waitsburg Historical Society Pioneer Fall Festival.

It was no different on Sunday afternoon, when the historical society held it's 39th annual festival at the Bruce Memorial Museum, 318 Main St.

As for the pigeon-breasted blouses, there were a few worn by models who took part in the highly popular historical fashion show directed by Linda Hermanns of Waitsburg.

"This is a low year, usually they are lined up all along the sidewalk," Hermanns said of Sunday's attendance for the fashion show.

Though the sidewalks were bare, just about every seat on the front lawn of the Bruce mansion was taken, giving credence to the claim that the event has long been a favorite at the Festival.

Another crowd pleaser was the Waitsburg Lions Club's contribution to the day, one that goes back to the beginning of the festival in 1973: The buffalo feed.

"We used to go back to Montana and bring back a live one, butcher it on the spot, and then do the liver and onions on Saturday," Lions Club member Jack McCaw said.

The club might have kept the live buffalo tradition going, were it not for the year when they had a stampede of one.

"The last time we did the wild one, one got loose. And we got a call from a guy. He said, 'I think I got a buffalo in my yard and I haven't been drinking.' That was the end of the wild buffalo," McCaw said.

So on Sunday, the buffalo came in catered trays, and the only butchering done on the spot was the carving with a deli slicer, as all afternoon plates of buffalo, gravy and sides were served up to raise funds for the Lions Club.

As for the barbershop quartet that performed on Sunday, half of its members have been singing in the Touchet Valley almost a decade longer than the festival, since 1964 to be exact.

The two senior members of "Farmers Pair A Docs" (pronounce paradox) are McCaw, a farmer who sings bass, and Chuck Reeves, a doctor who sings tenor.

The younger members are Bob Patton, a farmer who sings lead tenor, and Randy Pearson, another dentist who sings baritone .

"I used to watch them guys perform when I was in middle school," Patton said of the older members.

On Sunday, the group performed traditional a cappella barbershop quartet pieces, as well as gospel quartet songs.

As in years past, the Pioneer Fall Festival also included a number of historic crafts and pioneering skills, such as blacksmithing, candle making and wheat sack sewing.

A number of vendors were also on hand, and some donated a portion of their profits to the historical society.

The yearly event marks the end of the Bruce Memorial Museum touring season, which begins each June.

The Victorian mansion, which is almost identical in layout to the Kirkman House Museum in Walla Walla, was built in 1883 by William P. and Caroline Bruce.

The museum has been completely restored and furnished to period by the Waitsburg Historical Society, which included keeping the original no-plumbing and no-electricity.

The public restroom is in the carriage house.

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