One queen, all for Sequim

It’s all about representing Sequim in princess style for this year’s Sequim Irrigation Festival candidates.

Five Sequim High juniors are vying for the queen’s crown at the 37th Sequim Irrigation Festival’s court.

Taking place March 1 in the Sequim High School auditorium, the girls usher in the 119th year for the festival taking place May 2-11.

Candidates are Ashley Baltrusitis, sponsored by Dilley & Soloman; Kaylee Ditlefsen sponsored by Northwest Log Homes; Kristina Holtrop sponsored by Nourish; Katey Tapia sponsored by Air Flo Heating; and Judi Villella sponsored by Bekkevar Logging and Trucking.  

The girls were given the option to wear mermaid gowns but all five opted for “poofy princess” dresses with some of the group dreaming of being a princess at some point.

“We want to be able to pet our dresses,” joked Tapia.

Most of the girls grew up in or near Sequim with Baltrusitis, Holtrop and Villella being natives. Tapia was born in Santa Monica, Calif., and moved to Sequim at age 2. Ditlefsen moved here about nine years ago from Federal Way.

Royalty mom Lynn Horton said the girls have met since December for two nights a week rehearsing and discussing the pageant and the next year of activities.

They’ll appear in 14 parades including Sequim Irrigation Festival’s Grand Parade and the queen will receive a $1,000 scholarship and the three princesses will receive $750 each.  

At the pageant, the girls will answer judges’ questions and share a creative display —  Baltrusitis will paint graffiti art, Ditlefsen will sing, Holtrop will dance, Tapia will play piano and Villella will share her hobbies snowboarding and volleyball.

Below is a brief interview with each candidate.

Best memory/first memory of Sequim?

• Ashley Baltrusitis
Everyday, my mom would drive me into town to preschool (Head Start). I remember them being really accommodating for me. I’m allergic to peanuts and milk and remember them giving me soy nut butter and soy milk. It was good early memories of Sequim.

• Kristina Holtrop
I remember recently walking through Carrie Blake Park with my dad for Lavender Weekend. I loved walking around the booths, taking my time, and seeing everything. Some people have a bad impression of our festivals, but one of the reasons I like Sequim is the festivals.

• Katey Tapia
I live with my grandparents and mom and we used to have a horse, and I remember an elk herd came through one day. I thought it was a giant horse. Coming from California you don’t see animals like that. I thought Sequim was a magical place.

• Judi Villella
I was born and raised here and I remember going to Sequim Early Learning Center (preschool) and running around on the playground for hours having fun and chasing kids I know to this day.

• Kaylee Ditlefsen
My grandparents used lived up here before we did and we came up for the festivals. One of my favorite memories was going to the festivals but I remember eating at the Oak Table Cafe and one day I swore I’d work there and I did.

Why do you want to be queen?


I think it would be an amazing experience. It could show me wonderful opportunities and take me new places in the area. It’s always good to know about the place I grew up.

I think this would be a great opportunity for me to show that you don’t have to be perfect to do this. I have a birthmark and I want to give the idea it’s not a deformity because maybe there’s a girl in the parade watching with something like that of her own.

I’ve grown up on the edge of Sequim and Port Angeles my whole life but I’ve always gone to Sequim schools. My mom would drive me in everyday. I’ve heard people say that Port Angeles is better than Sequim but I want to do this to show people that Sequim is great.

I really enjoy being involved with fun things. This always sounded fun to me and it sounded like it’s right up my alley. I also get to work with young kids and I really like Sequim and the chance to represent it.

It’s always been a dream of mine. I remember going to the pageant with my grandma and I told her I wanted to wear a dress and crown when I was old enough. I asked her to remind me when I was that age and before the packets came out she asked me if I wanted to still do it and I said Yes!

By doing this, what do you want people to learn about you?

I think I have a lot of different sides to me. This is more the get dolled up side, but I have my swimming side and wrestling side. I expect this to help me open up as I go into the real world by meeting new people and network.

Until I started this I wasn’t able to look people in the eye. I had a hard time. I would stare at the ground. I’m shy to other people but not to my friends. I want to be able to show everybody who I am.

Even if I don’t make it on the court, I’ve had an amazing experience learning from Lynn and Whitley (Sakas). I tried my best. I love dresses and crowns. I want people to know this is a blast.

I want to refine my social skills. I’ve been somewhat shy and I’ve been trying to breakout of my shell for a while. And hopefully by doing this I can keep continuing to do that.

I want to be remembered as a positive role model and have a positive influence on my peers. I want to show Sequim that there are still good teens out there.

Best part of the Irrigation Festival?  


At the parade, I was in third grade, I was running up and down the street and I saw a vendor selling bouncy balls with water in them. I bounced it once and it popped everywhere.

I used to be in Sunshine Generation (a children’s dance group) every year in a float. I remember my mom following the float all the way. She is my No. 1 fan. If I forgot a step, she’d do a thumbs up. My mom was that mom.

I’ve been in the parade since I can remember with Sunshine Generation and the marching bands. Two years ago I went through the parade with the band and had to change out of the elaborate uniform and it is elaborate. Then I drove back to the beginning with a friend and got into a dress and heels for the “The Music Man” operetta float and when through it again.

It was at the parade I learned I had a connection with elderly people. At the end of the parade one year, I was waiting for my friend when an elderly woman came up to me and asked me where a good place is to eat. After that at least seven other older people walked up to me and asked me questions. Now I work at Sherwood Assisted Living.

I’ve been in the parade every year for years and sometimes several times in a day. I like meeting up with my friends at the carnival and then going to the logging show and watching the fireworks. I love walking the streets of Sequim during the festival. Going from event to event is nice.
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