August 16, 2001 11:00 pm
Miskell Gale ().
Miskell Gale ().

By T. L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

A 102-year-old Cove woman has vivid memories of Coves original Cherry Fairs between 1911 and 1917.

I went to the first one and the last one, Miskell Gale recalls.

A teen-ager during those years, Gale remembers the activities and many of the people who put together the annual event that the Cove Sentinel newspaper, in 1917, said had be one of Coves institutions that the people seemed proud of.

The Cherry Fair disbanded, apparently because of lack of community interest, but Gale is coming back to her childhood home this year and taking the honored spot as grand marshal in the Cherry Fair parade Saturday morning at 10.

The floats (in the 1900s) were hay racks all decorated, Gale recalls. She remembers one detail about the girls who rode those original floats the women wore lovely long hair, she says, remembering one year when the two candidates for Queen Anne of the Cherry Fair were blonde and very dark brunette.

Gale grew up in Cove, worked in La Grande, and married and moved to Union before recently returning to live in Cove. She has a kaleidoscope of memories of Cherry Fairs from a time when the excitement was the visit of a nationally famous touring horse that had its mane and tail drown and brushed out to drape on the ground. Gale said her family paid a quarter to go and see the marvelous horse.

And all the mothers with babies! she laughs. Yes, Cove was the site of a prettiest baby contest in the early years of the fair.

Gale particularly remembers one baby contest that included her cousin, then an infant.

My cousin won, but I thought she was the ugliest little brat I ever saw.

Gale grew up living on part of what is now the Ascension School and Camp grounds. Her original classroom was a teachers quarters in what is still the upstairs of one of the original buildings.

But her school grounds, during Cherry Fair, turned into the center of the community, then as now.

There were horse races and foot races, judging of cherry packing cartons designed to show pictures of presidents, American flags, and other patriotic symbols and more.

Oh, they were beautiful; the women used different cherries for colors, Gale says.

There were food stands to buy food, and plenty of friends and neighbors to see, including people from Union and La Grande who rode the Dinky, a cherry-hauling train, to Cove for the day.

Gale remembers a Mrs. Connelly who lived at the Phys Point corner and always wore the prettiest hat, she said. She remembers riding into Cove from Union and seeing Connelly in her hats shaking rugs off her balcony.

The memories come fast and clear the first showing of Birth of a Nation in La Grande, her speed in those early Cherry Fair foot races, the special moments that defined a childs life.

Gale hopes she can share some memories Saturday, and more importantly, make new ones.