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117th festival begins with crowning of royalty
Seven of Sequim’s finest young women competed to be selected for the 2012 Sequim Irrigation Festival royal court on Saturday, March 3: Abigail Berry, Amanda Dronenburg, Chyrell Jones, Courtney Cassal, Natalie Stevenson, Arianna Flores and Bailey Thomas. The pageant was sponsored by The Co-op Farm & Garden.
After about two hours of the contestants demonstrating poise under pressure, Abigail Berry was chosen as queen and as princesses Amanda Dronenburg, Natalie Stevenson and Arianna Flores. Their sponsors are, respectively, Solar City’s Tesa Boutique & Tanning Retreat; Inspired!; Jose’s Famous Salsa House; and Graysmarsh Farms, Inc.
All are juniors and in many of the same AP classes. In the above order, their parents are Dr. Jay and Judy Berry; Robert and Charity Dronenburg; Craig and Rebecca Stevenson; and Arturo and Herlinda Flores. Bailey Thomas, also a junior and the daughter of Eric and Kim Thomas, was voted “Miss Congeniality” by her peers and received the Tracie Sofie Memorial Award. Last year’s queen, Taylor Willis, received The Jim Carl Queen’s Scholarship award.
Junior royalty court members from Greywolf Elementary School are King Jarrett Allen, 11, son of Shelly Allen and Andy and Angie Allen; and Queen Mikayla Halady, 9, daughter of Elizabeth and Dan Halady. Helen Haller Elementary representatives are King Oscar Walchenbach, 9, son of Melinda McCoy and Peter Walchenbach; and Queen Stephanie Calderon, 9, daughter of Evelin and Miguel Najera.
Cindy Bacon, pageant chairman for the past 13 years, was recognized for her work in organizing the festival. She turns over the reins to Lynn Horton, who has been the “festival mom” for several years.
As is tradition, the royal court met with Horton to discuss the yearlong commitment house a few days after the pageant. Some of their duties include riding and waving in 14 parades and making appearances at events and schools to promote the festival and the city.
All of the girls said being chosen holds special meaning.
Princess Natalie has watched the pageants since she was 4.
“I knew I wanted to be a princess,” she said, “It’s like seeing my 4-year-old self’s dream come true.”
Princess Amanda moved to Sequim right before her freshman year but said Sequim has been good to her and she saw this as a good opportunity to represent the town.
The girls already have encountered some immediate fame even though the pageant is less than a week old.
Princess Arianna said one father walked up to her and said they’re setting a good example for other young ladies.
In the coming weeks, they’ll learn a song about the festival and themselves, which Horton writes.
Some of the girls are concerned, but Queen Abigail said she loves to sing and will use her experience from Sequim High School operettas to help out.
“We’ll make it sound good,” she said.
One of the royalty’s biggest duties is opening the Grand Parade. All the girls have either participated in or watched it before.
Abigail said her favorite part was participating in the Sunshine Generation little girls group that sings while riding through town.
Arianna said her favorite part was dressing up as a raspberry with balloons all around her for Graysmarsh Farm.
The girls appear next with their float at the Kickoff Dinner at 7 Cedars Casino on March 24. Tickets still are available through the Sequim- Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, KeyBank, Sound Community Bank and Pacific Mist Books.
Until then the girls are perfecting their waves.
“Elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist, touch your pearls and blow a kiss,” Horton showed the girls.
The Irrigation Festival runs the weekends of May 4-6 and May 11-13 with the theme, “117 and Still Growin’ Green!”