'Not my festival'

Duty, honor and country were what led Joe Borden to serve three tours in Vietnam as an Army intelligence officer. Duty, honor and community are what keep him volunteering in his adopted town of Sequim.

"To me, it's a duty and an honor to be out in the community," said Borden.

He's known about Sequim as "Mr. Irrigation Festival" for his 15 years as a member of the Ditchwalkers, volunteers who design, build and accompany the festival float to parades.

The 64-year-old has been festival chairman since 2005, overseeing 13 festival committees. He also has served on the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce board since 2006, active on seven or eight of its committees.

"Once I get involved, I get involved. I'm probably a Type A personality and I'm the kind of guy who likes to get things done."

Stand-up guy

But Borden isn't a hard-charging, bullying sort. Unflappable, genial and being a stand-up guy with a ready smile is more his style.

"I'm fairly calm most of the time and I especially try not to show frustration in public - it's part of my 20 years in the military - being a strong person with the answers," Borden said.

Borden was nominated as 2009 Citizen of the Year, received a Community Service Award in February from the chamber of commerce and was one of seven honored with a Clallam County Service Award in April.

"It's not my festival, it's the community's," he said.

"I enjoy all those accolades but those accolades belong to the community. Without the hundreds of volunteers coordinating and cooperating, the festival wouldn't work. It's not just because of me. Really, I believe the community needs to be thanked."

Managed CarQuest

Originally from Atlantic City, N.J., Borden enlisted in 1965, met and married his wife, Tawana, in 1969 and retired from the Army in 1986 as a first sergeant at age 41. He knew Sequim as a one-stop-light town where his in-laws lived. The Bordens decided to put down roots near her parents and, after years of moving with the military, bought their first home here. With a family to support, Borden worked as the manager of CarQuest until 2007.

Neighbors invited him to become part of the 100th Irrigation Festival in 1995.

"Initially I started working with the float crew because it was fun assembling it and making it work, getting it to fold up in a trailer. Then I started going to more and more parades with the float."

Borden says he starts afresh with the festival float each year "because the first time I walk down the street (with it) and see the eyes of the children and how wide they are, it gets to my heart - because it's for the community, for the children to realize they live in a wonderful place."

Step back, not bow out

Borden is stepping down as chairman because he and Tawana want to travel and because it's time for a younger person and new ideas, he said.

"I'll be back to float construction chairman and whatever Deon Kapetan, the new festival chairman, wants me to do. I'll probably never go away from the festival - I enjoy it too much."

However, Borden won't be slowing down much, as he'll be involved with the Sequim Centennial and Incredible Edible committees.

Volunteerism and friendliness are at Sequim's core, Borden believes.

"There's a ton of people who volunteer for everything. Just do something to help your community because it's so rewarding to see the outcome. It makes me feel good inside and that's what makes me do it."

Reach Patricia Morrison Coate at patc@sequim

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