by Kirby Lindsay, posted 16 June 2014
The Fremont Fair started, 43 years ago, as a way to for fellow Fremonsters to share information about resources available for a whole community of people fallen on hard times. The neighborhood, in the early 1970s, had seen decades of decay – and had started to organize, get sober, clean up and get to work.
“We started the booth the first year of the Fair,” related Helen Watkins, 51 years a member of Fremont Baptist Church, and a volunteer who worked the Orange Booth at the Fair. The Fremont Baptist played a significant role in the up-swing of Fremont’s fortunes, and the start of the Fair. Fremont Baptist Pastor Bob Walker and others started a food bank, and clothing bank, at the church before it became part of the Fremont Public Association (now Solid Ground – and celebrating 40 years.) “I think he was one of the instigators for the Public Association,” Watkins recalled about Pastor Walker, “he was always down there.”
As for the booth, volunteers from Fremont Baptist distributed free juice and coffee at the first Fairs. Possibly it began as a way to lure people from around the neighborhood down to see the Fair, and the information being shared there. It may have also been a concession for the other volunteers who spent their day working the Fair.
A Plan In Place
“I worked in the booth for 20 or 25 years,” Watkins recently reported, “We were there every year!” The Orange Booth quickly became a fixture at the annual Fair, always located at the northeast corner of N 34th St & Evanston Avenue N (current site of the Fremont PCC.) This placed it at the ‘end’ of the Fair, which started at N 34th St & Fremont Avenue – at the Fremont Tavern.
Watkins didn’t organize the booth, but she remembers working it, year after year. “People are funny,” she recalled, “They would pass us by and go pay for a coffee down the street.”
Judie Clarridge, another Fremont Baptist member, confirmed that the Church took an active and early role in the Fair. “The group in the Church that thought up and built the booth were the Alpha Mus,” she reported. These were people in their 40s – business owners, veterans, and/or life-long church members – who carefully built a booth that could be assembled and disassembled, and stored in the Church basement for reuse, year after year. “We have a special tin can that holds the bolts,” Clarridge explained.
Clarridge couldn’t be sure when the Fremont Baptist volunteers started taking donations for the coffee and juice. “I’m fairly certain that in the beginning there were no donations,” she remarked. It is Watkins who remembered, “people would leave money on the counter.” Fremont Baptist volunteers gathered up the money and give it all to the food bank, then run by the Public Association which also took over organizing the Fair shortly after it began.
From the early days to now, 100% of the free-will donations benefit our neighborhood food bank. “I about fell over,” admitted Pastor Judy Gay on hearing, when she first started at Fremont Baptist, about the generosity. 100% of the money raised at the Orange Booth and from parking cars on the Church parking lot still goes to FamilyWorks Food Bank, with costs incurred by the church for ice and electricity paid for by the Church, or the generosity of other donors.
As for the water to make the coffee and juice, that has often come from the adjoining business. In the early days, Clarridge remembered, John Page Pottery let Fremont Baptist volunteers haul coffee pots and juice containers into his shop. She also remembered the hard years, after the pottery shop relocated, when volunteers had to haul water in from the church for the whole day. Today, the Red Door lets the volunteers refill from their faucets, including water for the doggies. “Where else do a church and a bar come together but at the Fremont Fair, and the Orange Booth,” Pastor Gay observed.
The generosity of the businesses is admirable, but the steadfastness of the Church volunteers is awesome!
“We are in fine shape,” reported Clarridge, who is organizing the volunteers to work the Orange Booth and the parking lot for 2014, “all of the shifts are covered,” although she also admitted, “some people are working more than one shift.”
“We have people who go above and beyond,” acknowledged Pastor Gay. “People who can’t give [money] to the church give in this way.” They’ve also had volunteers from among those who attend Fremont Baptist only sporadically – or go there for their meetings. “I think some of the 12-step group people help,” Watkins observed. “They may not attend every service,” Clarridge said about her volunteers, “but they want to help.”
“I think that every member of the church contributes something,” Clarridge observed. The coffee comes from former parishoners, who now own Mukilteo Coffee, while others donate cups and the juice/lemonade. One family, with five children, has taken charge the last few years for hauling the booth to the site and setting it up, then taking it down and storing it on Sunday.
“I think it’s a positive experience,” Clarridge observed about why volunteers come back year after year, “It’s incredible people watching.” Watkins, a former B.F. Day Elementary School teacher, agreed. “People I knew would come along, students I’d had,” she said, “it felt good to give away something to people who were thirsty.”
For A Laudable Legacy
After all her years at Fremont Baptist, Watkins has seen change – in her church, the surrounding community and the Fair. “I liked the Fair when it was smaller,” she observed, “It was so nice then. I got some great bargains.”
The Fair was smaller then – first one block, and then, for many more years, two – before it expanded (one might even say ‘exploded’) to encompass six. The move this year of the Seattle Art Car display to the parking lot on Burke Mill Road, along the Ship Canal, makes it seven.
Throughout, the Fremont Baptist Church has stayed steady in its mission to distribute coffee and juice through the Orange Booth – although it did move, many years ago, to the northwest corner of N 34th & Evanston – in front of the Red Door.
While at the Fremont Fair this year, stop by for juice, coffee or a slurp of water for Rover, and give a donation to the food bank – and consider it also a contribution to a lengthy and laudable legacy carried on by the Fremont Baptist Church.
- FamilyWorks Feeds The Poor
- by Kirby Lindsay, August 8, 2012
- Evolution Of the Fremont Fair
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- Share Your Stories Of Community & Solid Ground
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- Old Name On An Old Friend
- by Kirby Lindsay, April 6, 2005 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
- Shepherding A Fremont Flock
- by Kirby Lindsay, December 28, 2007 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
- Hallows Church Gathers In Fremont
- by Kirby Lindsay, January 11, 2012
- Fremont Baptist Provides Woodland Park With A New Home
- by Kirby Lindsay, July 22, 2011
©2014 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.