As she does every year when the temperature starts rising, when it stays lighter longer at night and spring flowers begin to bloom, Cynthia Anderson travels back 12 years in time.
It was glamorous, hectic and some of the best days of her life - the 1996 Sequim Irrigation Festival season.
Anderson was queen of the 100th annual Irrigation Festival. She wore the crown proudly and remembers every moment as if it were yesterday.
"Being the 100th festival queen was one of the biggest highlights of my life," Anderson said. "When I was a little girl I remember going to the parade with my family and the royalty float was always my favorite part."
Being queen for a year changed her life, according to Anderson, and set the stage for her career as a University of Washington academic counselor.
"We were put in a big leader-ship role at a young age and those are a lot of the reasons I am who I am today," she said. "The support and confidence that I was given from my family and growing up in such a wonderful community as Sequim has given me tools to meet many of my students' needs. I had people believe in me and I have found that sometimes that is all we really need."
"I have a lot of students who are looking for what they want to do and because of my experiences I can encourage them to find what is important to them and follow it," Anderson continued. "I ask students, 'What motivates you?' and they respond most often by sharing experiences from their past similar to mine as queen."
As she looks backs, Anderson fondly recalls the Ditch Walkers, who build the float and accompany the court at parades, as "some of the kindest people I have ever met."
"Their hard work on the float can be overlooked sometimes, but when you see them this year make sure to thank them for making Sequim's float look so good at parades across Washington," she said.
Though she hasn't kept in close contact with the princesses from her court, Anderson said she saw the three women at her 10-year high school reunion last year.
In many ways, Anderson's past is a fairy tale in itself.
Adopted as a malnourished 2-year-old from Pakistan, Anderson and two of her sisters came to live in Sequim with adoptive parents Bob and Linda Davis. The couple also has two biological daughters.
"I loved growing up in
Sequim," Anderson recalled. "Many times growing up I wondered where I would be in 10 or 20 years. All I am sure of is that no matter where I am, Sequim and its community will always be a part of me. I am proud of where I was raised (and) I am proud of Sequim's Irrigation Festival. My involvement in it when I was 17 gave me a feeling of belonging to something very important."
"Sequim has become so diverse, but 11 years ago it wasn't that way. There was maybe a handful of students of color (so) to be in the role of queen and know I was different from the others was important to me," Anderson said. "We all try things in our lives and sometimes they don't work out, but when they do, it's amazing."
In June, Anderson and her husband, Ethan Anderson, are traveling to Pakistan to meet her biological parents. Because it was an open adoption, Anderson has kept in touch via letters and e-mail but finally she will be able to spend face-to-face time with her birth parents.
"My parents have supported this my whole life and encourag-ed me to have a relationship with my biological family," Anderson said. "I am excited to share my life with them and finally put stories with the pictures they've seen."
As for her next visit home to Sequim, Anderson wasn't sure - possibly for the Irrigation Festival grand parade, she said.
"It's one of those things I can encourage others to do," she said about being on the Irrigation Festival royal court, "but I can't express enough the value of being involved in the community like that. It literally made me who I am today."
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