Blue Bird Inc., celebrated over 110 year as Washington's oldest grower-owned cooperative by featuring the iconic Skookum sign on their entry in Saturday's Apple Blossom Grand Parade.  "Farm Life, Lovin' Every Minute of It" was spelled out on the side of the colorful float in keeping with the 2024 Apple Blossom festival theme.

But, all eyes were probably on the seven foot replica of the famous Skookum sign that generations grew up with recognizing as a symbol they were in Wenatchee.

Skookum sign replica on Blue Bird Inc. float Image: KPQ
Skookum sign replica on Blue Bird Inc. float Image: KPQ

The beloved Skookum Indian sign most recently appeared for two decades on top of the Office Depot location on Wenatchee Avenue, a former Skookum Inc. fruit warehouse.  The sign was removed for refurbishing in 2022.  At the time, company officials said the Skookum logo was no longer in use.  The original was erected in Wenatchee in 1921 and was a double-sided wooden structure, standing 14 feet tall.

In announcing plans to re-introduce the Skookum sign in the parade, Blue Bird said the Co-op stands behind the importance of the community's history and legacy.

Ray Schmitten, Blue Bird CEO says Blue Bird’s management and Board of Directors decided to re-introduce the iconic sign in the Apple Blossom parade to promote excitement around the co-ops agricultural roots.

Schmitten says growing fruit has become very challenging for all growers, for the family farms at Blue Bird as well as for the large corporate entities. "We at Blue Bird want to bring a smile to our Valley. A warm and welcoming image. There is comfort in a strong heritage. There is no better place to reflect on our past and welcome in the future than the Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival. We relish our past and welcome the challenges before us."

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Could the Skookum sign's appearance signal a permanent display in the future?

Schmitten says the decision on whether the Skookum Indian sign will smile over Wenatchee on a permanent basis remains to be seen.

Blue Bird first wanted to gauge the public's reception to the sign' s appearance in the parade.  Schmitten has previously served on the Board of Directors of the Cashmere Museum, which displays one of the largest collections of Native American artifacts on the west coast.

"I have the ultimate respect for our native culture. The prevailing view from tribal representatives was that the Skookum Boy is a happy and positive image. They felt the image was iconic and appropriate for preserving history.  It is important to Blue Bird that the feeling still prevails."

A check of social media posts on Facebook on Sunday revealed commenters were generally delighted to see the iconic sign and reminisced about their memories when the sign greeted visitors to  the Wenatchee Valley.

Schmitten says the original sign needs a complete overhaul if it is to be permanently displayed and could serve as an image of community pride.   Schmitten says no decision on a possible location or a time frame has been established.

It was fun to see the Skookum sign smiling in Wenatchee on Saturday.  It brought back my own fond memories of my first recollections of Wenatchee.

I moved tp Washington state from Southern California in 1973.  My earliest memory of driving through Wenatchee in he early 70's was seeing Ohme Gardens on the hillside and the Skookum Indian sign.

I have learned the replica sign in the Apple Blossom Parade was the handiwork of Lexer Nucamendi, who handled all metal and mechanical work on the sign.  Eduardo Romero captured the personality of the original with all of the paint work.

Let's hope the replica makes a few more appearances if possible and maybe one day, the Skookum sign will be smiling and winking at passers by again in Wenatchee.

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