What better place to catch up on background news than to visit the booths in the main hall at the Del Norte County Fair. In this column, I’m featuring my favorite booth, Margie Rouge’s Uncharted Shores Academy (USA tuition-free K–8), and my favorite interview, a discussion with the amazing Ron Phillips.
According to the charter school’s brochure, “USA opened as a tax-supported, free alternative educational choice in Del Norte County in 2007.” It now occupies the building that was formerly the site of St. Joseph’s Catholic School, at 330 E Street in Crescent City. Both home-study and site-based classes are taught by credentialed teachers.
“Multi-age learning groups, a nurturing environment and development of respect for students and staff at USA creates a family atmosphere where students form lasting relationships. USA is the only Del Norte County school governed by a board in which the majority of members are parents of the students.”
I visited the school before it closed for the summer because it’s next door to St. Joseph’s gym, where we are having a summer ping pong program for all levels, 18 and older, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3–6 p.m. I found the school bright and cheerful, and the students were engaged and responsive. I urge you to call (464-9828), visit the school, and talk to Principal/Director Margie Rouge about their excellent test scores or whatever else you wish.
Now on to my chat with Ron Phillips. This will have to be a two-parter because he does so many things, and I couldn’t cover all of them in one interview. He’s currently very interested in developing the farmer’s market. He’s been the manager for seven years, and it is steadily growing. The strict rule for exhibitors is that they have to put some type of artisan work into what they sell. If it’s T-shirts, they have to tie-dye them themselves, for example. If it’s jewelry, they have to make the jewelry. If they’re farmers, they have to grow their own food.
Ron explained, “We have a good mix of people between the farmers, the food vendors, the bakers, the bread people, the jewelry people, etc. It’s like a small town growing. It’s become more of a community event, bringing people together. We have people who come out there and stay for three hours, just meeting people, talking to people and visiting with their neighbors. Especially at the beginning of the year, they haven’t seen them all winter long.
“We close at 1 p.m. because the farmers get up early on Saturday morning to do the harvesting or late Friday night, and by 1 we’re all exhausted. I get there at 6 a.m. to start setting up the market, getting all the stuff out and getting people in the places they have to be. The farmers feel that 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. is long enough
“It started in 2000 downtown with six vendors. I took over from Terri McCune in 2007. Terry moved it to the present location at the fairgrounds in 2005. When I took over, there were 28 vendors, and now we’re doing close to 60 every weekend. People come to the market for the opportunity to sell their stuff. I look at it as an incubator for small business. It’s a cheap way to get in. Hopefully they’ll do well enough to go somewhere and start a business.”
We’ll have to wait until my next column in two weeks to look into Ron’s work with Rural Human Services and the Harbor Commission, as well as his other projects. His interest in growing business in Del Norte is evident in much of what he does. And he enjoys providing opportunities that bring the community together. He plays a big role in consensus-building, which is so needed.
To be continued.