The sixth annual Yaak School Arts and Crafts Fair is going to once again feature a variety of arts, crafts and even some edibles, as locals gear up once again to raise money to help fund the extra activities and expenses of one of only 25 remaining one-room school houses in Montana.
The Saturday, June 30 event will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., coinciding with morning and afternoon activities just up the road at the Yaak Tavern and Mercantile in an early commemoration of July 4th.
Free children’s activities will run from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at the school, including a variety of fair-style games, lawn games and face painting, said community volunteer and event organizer Sandy Beder-Miller.
In addition to artisan baked goods from vendors and a bake sale by the Yaak Women’s Club with food of a sweet disposition, lunch will be available to purchase from Cabinet Mountain Catering.
Among the arts and crafts for sale will be items made by students from the Yaak School.
Other items for sale are expected to include knitted, crocheted and hand sewn articles, as well as photography, paintings and writing. There will be rugs, pottery, wood stoves, plants greeting cards and wooden signs and furniture.
There will also be a silent auction that closes at 4 p.m. Winners do not need to be present to collect their items, and will receive a phone call to arrange picking up the item if they are not present.
Beder-Miller said that the school starts games in the afternoon so as not to conflict with the games parents may want to participate in at the Mercantile.
The fair supports things such as field trips for the kindergarten through eighth grade students who attend the school, who this last year totaled nine, she said.
“Tax dollars don’t cover field trips,” she said.
One example is a trip to historic places around Washington D.C. and Philadelphia several years ago, Beder-Miller said.
In addition to fundraising, the fair is also a way to make the community aware of the school, she said. “It’s used as an outreach to the community to let them know that this treasure is in their community.”
While the school has only one teacher, Rose Wilson — who is also the principal — with the assistance a clerk and part time aid, she keeps the school humming and the students well-educated, Beder-Miller said.
Children who have attended the school have gone on to careers in teaching, accounting, law, medicine, engineering, music and research.
“It’s just a wonderful atmosphere in that school. The kids are so engaged,” she said. “She does just a masterful job of coordinating all these different grades and different learning abilities.”
But fundraising isn’t the only way the community supports the school, Beder-Miller said. “(Wilson) loves to draw off the resources in the community.”
Beder-Miller said she taught a special lesson on the U.S. Constitution for Constitution Day, noting the challenge of figuring out a lesson that would engage the students at all the different grade levels.
For a career day, Wilson had various retirees from around the Yaak come to the school and talk to the children about their experiences in the workforce.
“She tries to bring in a lot of things with the Native Americans, the local economy — my husband’s a retired forester, so he’s come in and worked with the kids,” she said.
Local volunteers help children with the school’s greenhouse — another school project the fair helps support — including watching the greenhouse when school isn’t in session.
In the past, the fair has helped to buy books for the library, which is open to the community and home school students, she said.
“We have a fair number of home-schooled students that are welcome to come use the school library, welcome to come to the special activities at the school,” Beder-Miller said.
For one recent special activity, children spent the final day of school learning how to make things such as leather bracelets, paper and butter, she said.
Built by area residents in 1932, the one-room log school house has had small additions over the years for things such as bathrooms, the library and an office, but the original structure has been unaltered.
The school has kept up with technology as well, though the satellite internet isn’t always fast, Bedder Miller said.
The Yaak School is about 45 minutes from Troy on Yaak River Road between mile markers 30 and 31. From Troy, the trip follows Highway 2, west, then right onto Yaak River Road, and is just a short distance past the intersection of Pipe Creek Road and Yaak River Road. From Libby, travel follows Pipe Creek Road from Highway 37 north of town, turning right onto Yaak River Road at the ‘T’ intersection.