Royal candidates to vie for queen Saturday

— image credit:
for the Sequim Gazette

Seven young women will compete for Irrigation Festival queen on March 3. Three will be named princesses.


The rest, even though they aren’t selected to be on the court, will have the opportunity to learn about poise, makeup, hair styling, public speaking, dancing and other important skills that will last forever, said Cindy Bacon, pageant chairwoman.


Each participant will wear a ball gown, demonstrate special talents, answer impromptu questions and give speeches in front of an auditorium full of friends, family and strangers—sharing how she plans to represent Sequim.


The pageant, Bacon insisted, is about so much more than just looking “pretty.”


“Each of these seven girls learns how to walk in heels, dress for an interview and present themselves with confidence,” Bacon said. “Those are important life-long skills.”


The Royal Court is one of the most visible parts of the Irrigation Festival, making appearances around town, traveling with the float to other parades and performing community service in the area. In return, each girl receives a scholarship.


The pageant theme is “Now That You’re Planted in Sequim, How Do You See Yourself Growing?”
Passing on the torch

Bacon, who served as a princess on the court in 1973 and has spent the last 13 years acting as pageant chairwoman, will pass the job on to Lynn Horton next year.


Each spring, Bacon said she starts reminiscing about the contestants from the last decade of pageants, catching up with the ones who still live in the area and wondering about the ones who don’t.


“I’ll still be involved with the festival, it’s just time to let somebody else have a turn,” Bacon said. “It’s been really fun and a very important 13 years for me.”
Meet the contestants

Abigail Berry

Berry describes herself as a natural leader with the tendency to involve herself in multiple activities throughout the year. She’s the Sequim High School junior class vice president and has helped organize and lead several major community service projects including the Haunted Hallways and Thanksgiving Food Drive. She plays soccer, helps manage the boys’ basketball team and has a passion for dance and theater.


Despite all of her commitments, Berry still manages to keep a 4.0 grade point average and hopes to be named valedictorian.


After high school, Berry plans to enroll in a four-year college before applying to medical school. Though she hasn’t made any decisions yet, she’s leaning toward specializing in interventional radiology.


Why does she want to be part of the Sequim Royalty? That’s simple, according to Berry.


“Because I love my town and I would love the opportunity to represent it,” she said. “If possible, I would love to help set up an annual food drive at the high school and other projects for people to be able to give back to our community.”
Amanda Dronenburg

Dronenburg introduces herself to people as “the crazy, energetic, down-to-earth, outgoing Amanda Dronenburg.” Her hobbies include baking, photography, scrapbooking and dancing but she admits to having her interests sparked by music, nature, precious moments and carousel horses.


“Like most people, my career plans have changes a million times since the day I entered Kindergarten,” Dronenburg said. “However, since my freshman year I have been persistent in concentrating on one goal: to become a cook and baker.”


When she graduates, Dronenburg plans to attend culinary school and travel the world, learning about different styles of cooking and baking along the way.


“Then, when I have seen all I want to see, I want to open up my own bakery,” she said ambitiously.

“Another goal I have is to end hunger in a community with poverty, whether it is in a foreign country or my own local neighborhood.”


Life, Dronenburg said, has taught her that plans can change easily and people can end up in places and circumstances they never expected, so ultimately, her only concrete goal in life is “to learn, be happy and keep growing as a person through and through.”
Chyrell Jones

Jones is captain of the cheerleading and track teams and involved in the Select Choir. After school, she enjoys working at her grandmother’s shop, long boarding, surfing and attending church Bible studies.


“My love for helping and being there for people is what brings my smiles every day,” she said. “I went on a life changing youth trip with my church to Mezquital, Mexico and say it has made me what I am today.”

After high school, Jones is thinking about attending school in Seattle to become a personal rehabilitation trainer. She’s also considering enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard.


“That, to me, looks like a big adventure and I am ready to full on embrace it get life starting good and always plan ahead,” Jones said. “I have high hopes for my future and with the love and support of God and my family, I’m unstoppable.”
Courtney Cassal

Cassal starts each day by waking up early so she can be at school no later than 7 a.m., where she’s signed up for a “zero hour” period and serving as the spirit commissioner for the class of 2013.


After high school, Cassal plans to take advantage of all the opportunities available to her, including college and studying abroad. In the meantime, she’s trying to volunteer in the community and spends a significant amount of time coaching a soccer team, being a program aide at Girl Scout camp and helping out wherever she sees fit in the community.


She first fell in love with the idea of being Irrigation Festival Queen as a young Girl Scout who was involved in the pageant.


“I would like to be part of the royalty for many different reasons, including the opportunity to represent Sequim all over Washington, scholarships and for the overall experience,” Cassal said. “Ever since I was little, I have always seen the queen and princesses in the parade and thought to myself, ‘One day that will be me!’”
Natalie Stevenson

Stevenson’s week is usually filled with advanced placement homework, sports and volunteer work. Two of her passions this year include playing on the varsity volleyball team and lending a hand at the Sequim Food Bank every Saturday morning.


Last year, she was honored as “Most Valuable Teammate” on her volleyball team.


“Sports are great but I have always felt that there were more important social issues that needed my help,” Stevenson said. “Getting up early on Saturday morning is not always easy but doing my part to help feed over 80 Sequim families each week makes it all worth it.”


After high school, Stevenson plans to attend a four-year college where she can major in either education or psychology.


“I see myself ending up in a profession that works with people since I love talking and getting to know new people any chance I get,” she said. “One day, I could see myself being a director of a food bank.

Having seen firsthand the amount of work, time and money it takes to feed the hungry, I hope I could use the experience I have gathered in Sequim to raise awareness for this issue wherever I end up making my home, maybe right here in Sequim.”

Since she was just 4 years old, Stevenson has attended the Sequim Irrigation Festival pageant with her sister and father.


“I believe that my experience as a dedicated teammate and my connection to the Sequim community through volunteering would make me a great representative of sunny Sequim,” Stevenson said. “Ever since those nights 12 years ago, my heart has been set on being Sequim royalty and representing my hometown.”
Arianna Flores

Flores was born and raised in Sequim and swears she wouldn’t have it any other way.


“Growing up, my backyard was big open fields occupied by apple orchards, strawberries, raspberries and even some livestock,” she described. “I remember when I was younger I would run around the farm all day. That hasn’t changed; Now that I am older I may not have as much free time but I try to make some.”

On summer days, Flores is known to pick raspberries, swing on the tire swing underneath the big cherry tree, and go for runs on the trails nears the bluffs.


After high school, Flores plans to attend the University of Washington and eventually apply to medical school. She wants to be a neonatologist and work at Seattle Children’s Clinic.


“It’s like Confucius said, ‘Do something you love and you will never work a day in your life,’” she said.

Flores said she’s also interested in traveling and would like to go to Tijuana with a mission group to volunteer in an orphanage.


“The main reason I want to be part of the royalty is because Sequim has watched me grow up and my wish is to represent it and also be more active in our community,” she said.
Bailey Thomas

Thomas’ hobbies include reading, writing and traveling.


“I would love to be able to travel as far as possible!” she said excitedly, “By that, I mean just head for the other side of the world and see where I end up.”


She’s involved in honor society, international club, women in networking and volunteers at KSQM 91.5. Her most recent achievements include earning her food handler’s permit, getting a B on a math test and entering a writing contest.


In the future, Thomas plans to attend college and participate in a foreign exchange program. In preparation, she’s busy taking the ACTs and SATs, trying to get a job and applying for scholarships.

The main reason she wants to be on the court, Thomas said, is for the experience.


“The whole thing just sounds like so much fun and an opportunity to learn so much,” she said. “The chance to be a princess is just, to me, quite the package deal.”


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