NORTH FORK — “In the spring of 1984, my parents decided to take a Sunday drive up from where we lived in San Jose to the little town my dad had lived in in the 1950s,” Deborah Pennington Hough reminisces.
“They spent the day in North Fork visiting all the places that held memories for my dad, including the old North Fork elementary school house.”
Seemingly overnight, their old house in San Jose was put up for sale and the Penningtons found a house in North Fork.
“One day before my freshman year, we made the move. I was a skeptical city kid but, within a week of being here, I knew it was the best move my parents could’ve ever made. My four years at Sierra High and in North Fork were some of the best of my life. I was given a great foundation and feel very lucky.”
Some of her favorite memories go back to when she ran for Logger’s Jamboree Queen. Deborah didn’t win, but that didn’t matter. The event was all about friendship and community, and raising money for the local recreation center.
The 11-acre site of the North Fork Recreation Center sits along Willow Creek, and was purchased in the late 1950s by the North Fork Boosters for the community. Traditionally, the Jamboree, now a mainstay of the summer season, raises money to support and improve the Rec Center and Town Hall.
Young Deborah Pennington eventually moved back to the Bay Area for college, where she soon met her husband, Paul Hough. With four children, she wanted to give them the same type of upbringing she had as a child in the exact center of California.
“When the opportunity presented itself to make a move to North fork in 2003, Paul and I jumped at it,” says the woman who describes herself as “a Chieftan through and through.”
“We immersed ourselves in the community right away. We quickly got involved in as many activities as possible. We participated in the Loggers Jamboree parade, where the kids attended their first Jamboree and dance.
“We spent our summers at the Rec Center, Manzanita Lake and Bass Lake, exposing our four little ones to all the things I experienced living here in my youth. Over the years, we have been in lots of Christmas parades, chili cook-offs, and car shows. We’ve rented out the Rec Center for birthdays and graduations.”
And now, this year is the 30th anniversary of Deborah’s run for Jamboree Queen, and she has a lot to celebrate. Deborah’s daughter and niece are running for Jamboree Royalty this year, too: third generation North Forkians who have grown up at the Rec.
“I always knew I would run for queen at some point, just like my mom did, 30 years ago,” says Kate Hough, whose sponsor Donna Pride also supported Deborah back then. “I got really excited about it when my then-babysitter, Larissa Thornburg ran for queen. Two years ago, one of my best friends ran, Heather Lutz.”
Kate says what makes it even more special is the Little Princess program.
“My two-and-a-half year old cousin Emma Jayne Sweeney is also running with me,” Kate explains. “She is just starting to enjoy the Rec, like my mom, my uncle and cousins all have. It’s fun watching her play there. This is really a family affair!”
The Rec Center remains close to the heart of her family, as it is of the community itself.
“This summer will be the fourth summer that my oldest son Justin, 18, has worked at the Rec Center as a lifeguard,” notes Deborah. “He feels very blessed to have been given the opportunity and enjoys providing a safe place for community kids to play.”
Deborah says Justin takes his job very seriously and enjoys being a positive influence. He is hoping to see the program expand to add a sports “camp” portion, she says, and continue the craft sessions and fun weekly themes.
Meanwhile, daughter Kate, 15, has joined her brother this summer as a junior lifeguard at the Rec.
“Our youngest, Ryan, 14, still gets to play and have fun but is always up for helping pick up trash and entertaining the little ones,” laughs Deborah. “I’m sure he will follow in the footsteps of his older brother and sister, too.”
The Houghs’ son Mason, 16, took a job as team manager for a collegiate travel baseball team, so he won’t be working at the Rec this summer. When it comes to the Rec Center, the enthusiasm is unbridled in their family.
“We love the program and are excited to generate funds for continued success and additions. The Rec is where our kids learned to swim, catch their first fish in the fishing derbies, and sing their hearts out at Vacation Bible School.
“There are so many children that benefit from this program. The Loggers Jamboree ticket sales fund the entire summer program. Children can come, eat lunch, make a craft, play and swim, all under the watchful eye of the lifeguards and employees.”
The families whose children are running for royalty appreciate what the North Fork Boosters and the Jamboree provide for the community kids, Deborah is quick to point out.
“Win or lose, it’s not important. We are happy to get out into the community to spread the word about what the Jamboree ticket sales accomplish and that there is a fun and safe place for kids and families to enjoy in the summer, all for free!”
All six of the Queen, Princess and Little Logger contestants are working hard so that the North Fork Recreation Center and community kids benefits, say organizers.
“It’s a great experience for them!”
New this for the Loggers Jamboree is that Minarets Foundation has announced the school is handling all the concessions this year.
“We are hoping it’s the beginning of a long relationship and a strong fundraiser for all of our sports teams and groups that fall under our nonprofit. We are super vested in pre-selling tickets to make sure we have a good attendance.”
The Minarets Foundation has about 40 volunteers coming in to help at the Jamboree and they plan on hosting a Kids Zone with fun activities for those 12-and-under.
“We also are hosting several food booths: football will be doing pulled pork sandwiches and famous pulled pork nachos and many other yummy treats. Boys soccer will be manning our snack shack that will have drinks, candies, and snacks for sale and cheer is in charge of the Kid Zone. Minarets Foundation has donated logger jamboree T-shirts for all of our volunteers. Hough Construction and Kate for Queen donated all of the artwork for this project.”
For $10, the Kid Zone includes unlimited access to the bounce house, carnival games, face painting and one pony ride; additional pony rides are $5.
Deborah adds that the Houghs are definitely most excited to see their Minarets High School friends and family participating in this year’s event.
“The event itself is super exciting. We always love watching the ax throw, especially this year with Ryan participating. Of course, the log rolling is also a fun event to watch and we are completely mesmerized when they fell the trees. It takes such great skill. But our very favorite Jamboree event has got to be the dance. Great music, food and friends. Who could ask for a better way to spend the evening?”
Purchase tickets at Pizza Factory, Hair Care Plus, K & B Auto, Donna Pride London Properties, Wood Choppers, Gas ‘N Stuf, Dorothy’s Hair to Please and the Buckhorn Saloon.