Apple Citizen of the Year

2019 Apple Citizen of the Year: Dalton Thomas

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Dalton Thomas has been named 2019 Apple Citizen of the Year.  Festival Administrator Darci Christoferson and Former Wenatchee Valley College Athletic Director, Sandy Cooprider surprised Dalton with the award at the Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers Christmas Party at the Wenatchee Golf and Country Club, Friday evening.  The Apple Citizen of the Year award began in 1981 to honor the roots of the fruit industry and the leaders that make this the Wenatchee Valley the Apple Capital of the World.

Dalton Thomas is the youngest son of Paul “Tommy” & Marguerite Thomas.  Dalton and his two brothers Paul & Herb were raised in East Wenatchee.  Dalton was a graduate of Wenatchee High School in 1960 and went on to graduate from the University of Washington and continues to be a loyal Husky!  Dalton married his lovely wife Pam in 1964 and they have four children Heidi, Shelly, Jim and Brad, and nine grandchildren.

Paul “Tommy” Thomas and his family founded Oneonta Trading Corporation in 1934 and became the first exporter of Washington apples.  In the early fifties, Oneonta became an award-winning leader in Washington in growing, packing and shipping.  In 1965 Dalton and his brother Herb started working for Oneonta, and in 1971 they acquired the business from their father. In 1972 Oneonta won the first bid from the Central Trust of China to provide apples to Taiwan. Some 100,000 cartons per year for six years were shipped by Oneonta to Taiwan, representing not only the first Washington apples to go to that destination but also the creation of the “Asian pipeline” as it is known now.

In 2002 Dalton acquired sole interest in Oneonta, now Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers.  Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers received the Washington State Governor Trader of the Year Award in 2006 and in 2008 created Diamond Starr Growers, one of the largest pear marketers in the Northwest. Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers currently grows, packs and ships 15.5 million cartons of apples, 2.5 million pears, 2 million cherries as well as stone fruit from Washington and Oregon. They are also vertically integrated with a California operation exporting almost 2 million cartons of grapes and citrus around the world and is also the biggest growers of Honeycrisp in New Zealand.

In September Dalton was the recipient of Asiafruit Congress’ first-ever Impact Award for his contribution to developing Washington/US fresh fruit exports to Asia. His pioneering contribution as well as sharing his marketing insights with the industry displayed a career-long commitment to industry export programs, seeing the value of increasing promotional activities for the benefit of the entire industry.

With more than 50 years in the fruit industry Dalton has retired and his long and illustrious career, is a significant chapter of the Thomas family’s contribution to the industry. Reggie Collins, Vice President and Director of Chelan Fresh Marketing says “I’ve known Dalton for more than 40 years. You can use all kinds of words – generous, loyal, trustworthy, wise and insightful – to describe him. But one thing’s certain: He’s the one you’d like to be in the trenches with. I mean that both personally and from a business side. I could always go to Dalton and get the true story about what was going on in the industry. He’s benefited this industry with his wisdom and strength.”

Dalton’s Dad, Tommy had a passion for baseball as he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1928. After Tommy’s passing in 1997, Dalton and his brother Herb donated over $750,000 to help construct and maintain the Wenatchee Valley College Baseball Field (Paul Thomas Senior Field) Former WVC Athletic Director, Sandy Cooprider says, “Dalton Thomas is one off the most loyal and generous men when it comes to supporting the youth of our valley.  He has made a difference in the lives of this community that will live forever”.

This field is also home to the Wenatchee AppleSox. Jim Corcoran founder of the Wenatchee AppleSox says, “Without this generous contribution to the baseball stadium, the AppleSox would not exist. Their support of the Wenatchee Valley College project brought the stadium up to the standards necessary to host a summer collegiate baseball team like the AppleSox.  That field was our only option when the team was founded, and it still serves today as one of the best collegiate baseball parks in the NWAC and West Coast League”.

Dalton also donated over 1 million dollars to turf the infield and build a hitting facility for Recreation Park.  This facility not only benefits Wenatchee High School athletes but will benefit youth of all ages that love baseball.

Dalton, his family and Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers have contributed financially to Central Washington Hospital, Apple Education Foundation, Washington State Apple Blossom Festival, Wenatchee Valley College, Mission Ridge Ski Team, Complete the Loop Coalition and numerous youth activities and organizations throughout Central Washington.  He was also one of the donors to ensure that the Scout A Vista Boy Scout Camp will continue to operate.

Dalton has served on the Board of Directors for US Bank Washington, Washington Apple Commission and is a Past President of the Wenatchee Golf and Country Club. He is a lifelong hunter and fisherman and is also an avid golfer.  “Big D”, as he is known by his grandkids, loves spending time with his family at his home at Lake Chelan where he flies the grandkid’s college flags proudly. 

Dalton will be honored at 100th Apple Blossom Festival at the All Service Club Luncheon on Wednesday, May 1, and will also ride in the Stemilt Growers Grand Parade on May 4, 2019


2018 Apple Citizen of the Year Todd Fryhover:

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Todd Fryhover is a native of Wenatchee, Washington, and spent summers working in the apple and cherry industry.  After graduating from Wenatchee High School in 1980, he attended the University of Idaho graduating with a degree in Agricultural Economics and Business while playing football on scholarship.  Upon returning after college, Mike Scott gave him an opportunity at Chief Wenatchee and his career flourished.  Todd has worked for several leading apple packing companies over the past 30 years, 10 of those years were spent as President of his own marketing business with two other partners.  He has had management experience in quality assurance, purchasing, inventory control, shipping, operations, domestic sales and ultimately focusing on direct international sales for 15+ years. 

Todd came to the Washington Apple Commission in 2007 in a consultancy role, and assumed the presidency in December 2008.  During his tenure at the helm, Washington apple exports have increased from 35,350,843 (2008-09) to 50,592,725 (2014-15) cartons with an increase in value from $517,889,850 to $831,744,399 (+60.6%).  As barriers to trade became more significant, and industry’s need to export increased as new production came on line, maintaining and expanding Market Access has been his focus.  Todd played a key role in expanding varietal access to China, which has proven to be one of Washington’s top five export destinations.

Todd has been involved with the U.S. Apple Association, Northwest Horticultural Council and the Northwest Fruit Exporters as a board member and ex-officio.  He is currently the president of the World Apple & Pear Association. 

Todd has been married for 30 years to his Junior High Sweetheart Siobhan.  Todd’s pride and joy are his children Reid and Claire.  He has been involved with coaching their teams in multiple sports most of their childhood, which lead to his 2010-11 Wenatchee High School Parent of the Year Award.  And in 2014 Todd was voted into the WHS Panther Hall of Fame.  He is very committed to his family and gives a lot of credit to his father for inspiring him to be a hard worker and never give up!


2017 Apple Citizen of the Year: Leo Garcia

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2017 Apple Citizen of the Year: Leo Garcia2017 Apple Citizen of the Year: Leo GarciaThe Apple Citizen of the Year award began in 1981 to honor the roots of the Festival and the leaders that make this the Apple Capital of the World. 

 Leo is a 1974 graduate of Tulancigo High School in Mexico.  He graduated in 1984 from Washington State
University with a degree in Horticulture. After obtaining his degree he worked as a Fieldman at Trout, Chief Wenatchee, and Stemilt. Leo was the first Latino Fieldman and consultant in this area.

With input from the fruit industry he created the Hispanic Orchard Employee Education Program (HOEEP) at Wenatchee Valley College and has been teaching that course as well as other Agriculture classes since 1991.

“Leo Garcia has been an amazing resource for the tree fruit and wine grape growers industry in all of Eastern Washington since 1991 when he joined Wenatchee Valley College. From his initial involvement in the creation of the Hispanic Orchard Employee Education Program to bringing a similar program to wine grape growers, Leo continues to be the expert growers turn to for help with employee training. I am extremely proud of Leo for his many accomplishments and his deep commitment to students, agriculture and WVC.” – Dr. Jim Richardson, President of Wenatchee Valley College.

“Leo puts his heart into everything he does, believing in people and honoring each and every person for their unique abilities, and teaches them to believe in themselves. Helping people get good jobs and helping them succeed is a great source of pride for him.” – Tom Auvil, Research Horticulturist with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission.

“Leo just really loves his job!” -Francisco Sarmiento Leo’s Assistant for the last 18 years.

Leo and his wife Karen have been married for 38 years have, 2 children, and 1 grandchild. In his spare time, he enjoys farming, cooking up traditional Mexican cuisine, and construction including woodworking.

2016 Apple Citizen of the Year: David Smeltzer

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David Smeltzer has been named 2016 Apple Citizen of the Year.  The Apple Blossom Festival Queen Kori Martin, Princesses Sami Everhart and Emily Homes, and Festival Administrator Darci Christoferson surprised David with the award at Oneonta offices.  The Apple Citizen of the Year award began in 1981 to honor the roots of the Festival and the leaders that make this the Apple Capital of the World. 

David is a 1971 graduate of Wenatchee High School.  He graduated in 1976 from Washington State University with a degree in accounting. David began his career with Peshastin Fruit Growers Association as an accountant.  In 1978 he went to work for Cascadian Fruit Shippers as office manager, then eventually as General Manager.  When Cascadian was purchased by Custom Apple/Starr Ranch Growers in 1997, David transitioned on as plant manager and currently serves as the CFO.

David was a long time board member of the Wenatchee Traffic Association where he served a two-year term as President of the Board. During the Industry association consolidation process he represented the Traffic Association on the industry task force and then served on the transitional board of the newly formed Washington State Tree Fruit Association. He is a board member and past Chairman of the Northwest Horticultural Council, a past member of the US Apple Association Board and is a past board member and chairman of Central Washington Hospital.  He also currently serves on the board of the Northwest Fruit Exporters. He is a member of the Saddlerock Evangelical Presbyterian Church. 

David and his wife Ruth have been married for 39 years and have 3 children and 3 grandchildren.  He enjoys spending his spare time traveling, being in the outdoors and spending time with his family at Lake Chelan.

David will be honored at the All Service Club Luncheon on Wednesday, May 4, and will also ride in the Stemilt Growers Grand Parade on May 7. 

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