STITES Steve Schilling made a clean sweep in events in Stites on Saturday. The Stites resident won individual and doubles horseshoes and took first place in the raft race along with Wes Renee, also of Stites. Schilling partnered with Mike Coons of Stites in the horseshoe doubles.
Carroll Smith, organizer of the competition, said Schilling is a two-time winner, as well. Schilling took first place in the singles competition last year.
Not even a brief rainstorm could break up the fun residents had at Stites Day. At about 3 p.m., just after the horseshoe competition finished up, the rain fell for about an hour. Attendants stood under the awnings of the Stites Grocery and the Silver Dollar Pizzeria and Pub, visiting and some enjoying a beer.
“It’s been a nice day,” said Mayor Gerry Cathey. “We didn’t get the rain that the weather forecasted. We were supposed to get rain all day.”
As the rain broke, rafters prepared for a competitive drift down the South Fork of the Clearwater River.
“I have five teams of two,” said Debbie Howard, Stites. “I’ll take them up the road a couple of miles and drop them off in the South Fork. The first three teams under the bridge win.”
As competitors rounded the bend in the river, the first-place team of Schilling and Renee had a clear lead over the second- and third-place teams.
Schilling outpaced his horseshoe partner in the raft race. Coons teamed up with his brother-in-law, Kooskia graduate Ron Weeks. Weeks now lives in Lewiston but returned for Stites Day.
The race between second and third place was tight and competitive. Coons and Weeks edged out Phil Sauerland, Stites, and Shane Banta, Grangeville, after some questionable tactics. One of the team bailed from the raft, grabbed the rope and began pulling the raft as he ran down the center of the river. That move gave Coons and Weeks enough of a lead to edge into a solid second-place finish.
Schilling and Renee earned a rafting trip for two from Three Rivers Rafting for their first-place finish. Coons and Weeks won a pizza from the Silver Dollar Pizzeria and Pub. Sauerland and Banta were awarded a return of their entry fee.
Money collected from the $20 entry fees went toward the Stites Bathroom Fund. Howard said the community hopes to install a concrete handicap accessible bathroom in the park.
The raft race event was new this year to Stites Days, and Howard was pleased with the results.
“Everyone was pretty excited about,” she said. “We may change it a little bit. We’ll check with the city to see what we can do. Maybe next year we could open some more age groups.”
About 50 people came and went throughout the day. Vicki Smith of Kooskia said she believed there were more people attending the event this year.
“It seemed like there were more people in the park this year. It’s just nice for the community to come out and enjoy the day,” Smith said.
Carrie and Nathan Bannister drove in from Sacramento, Calif., to visit family and were all participating in events.
“We came in on Friday for the fourth [of July] and stayed for Stites Days,” she said. “Last year was the first year we went to Stites Days.”
Nathan competed in horseshoe doubles, and daughter Rylie was working in the children’s booths. Visitor Bayleigh Rollins, Port Townsend, Wash., came to Rylie to get purple haircolor sprayed in her hair.
“I’m staying the whole summer with my grandpa,” she noted excitedly.
Other children participated in the ring toss, a ball toss and a fishing game until all the prizes were given away. Organizers announced at noon that all the children’s prizes had been given out and the games would close.
Some visitors headed over to the Stites Fire Department tent to pick up a grilled burger or hot dog. Rod and Deb Funderburg of Kooskia were among those grabbing a bite to eat.
“We usually come every year,” said Deb.