Dan Fryer, Sequim Irrigation Festival’s grand parade chairman, says he and fellow Rotarians have a tongue-in-cheek, 12-item list they carry with them, perhaps in an attempt to keep organizing such a festival in perspective.
Number 12 on the list: “Rest assured that everything will fall into place. There’s no need for organization.”
A little further down: “Don’t worry about manpower. You and your six helpers can handle any crowd.”
Behind every brightly-colored float, crowd-filled meal and activity-packed venue is a veritable army of helpers behind the scenes, making sure trophies are ordered, programs distributed, dignitaries assisted, sponsors contacted, events promoted, permits submitted, bills paid and every emergency, Dungeness River-sized or the run-of-the-mill kind, managed.
“The spectator doesn’t know what happens (behind the scenes),” Fryer says.
For many of the festival organizers, the 116th Irrigation Festival and any succeeding ones begin well before the weather starts turning warmer.
Deon Kapetan, whose day job is as a lending manager at Sound Community Bank, is the festival chairman this year for the first time, taking over after Joe Borden ran it for the past six years.
Ask her about organizing a festival of this size and she pulls out a massive, three-ring binder with color tabs protruding from its side.
“This is probably way more than I bargained for,” Kapetan says, admitting her position is “easily” a 40-hour-per-week job.
But she’s certainly not doing it alone.
“There’s not one person who’s not spending hundreds of hours (on this),” Kapetan says. “It’s not just starting in January. We are already working on next year’s festival.”
The Irrigation Festival board of directors grew this year, she says, ballooning to nearly 40 members. With three dozen names on the festival phone tree — everything from the chairman and marketers to arts and crafts organizers and the parade photographer — monthly board meetings are just the tip of the iceberg, with subcommittee and sub-subcommittee meetings taking place at other intervals.
“We have a pretty good board; they’re all very involved in their community,” Kapetan says. “They didn’t just decide yesterday that they’d volunteer. Everybody contributes in some way.”
Kevin Kennedy’s been here before. For as long as it’s been around — 23 years, counting this year’s show — Kennedy and his corps of helpers have put on the logging show that runs the day before (this year, May 13) and day of the grand parade (May 14).
Come rain or shine, the fields just south of Carrie Blake Park are home to tractor pulls and chain saw carving, lawnmower racing, competitive events like log pole climbing and axe-throwing, concerts and a fireworks show.
Not bad from humble beginnings, out of a flatbed pickup truck more than two decades ago.
“It just grew and grew and grew,” Kennedy says.
With a crew of about a dozen, Kennedy handles the set-up and tear-down while Dave Bekkevar handles the “wood” end of things.
Kennedy also puts on the Strongman competition, named after local icon Jesse Marunde. For the seventh year, a host of elite musclemen — nine total, including seven from out of the area and six from out of state — battle each other in a friendly competition formed by Kennedy and Marunde, the late international Strongman competitor.
“We thought it’d be a great thing for Sequim,” Kennedy says. “That’s why I think we get big crowds down there.”
Kennedy and company have more than a dozen sponsors to host the strongmen, including coordinating rides to and from the airport, feeding them and putting them in hotels.
For the youngest of the festival’s patrons, something happens by the simple act of touching a fire engine or a speedboat.
So says Sunrise Rotary Club Rotarian John D’Urso, who along with Jack Tenhulzen and Tom Schaafsma, organizes the Kids Day event, held the first weekend of the Irrigation Festival.
D’Urso was helping organize the arts and crafts events for the festival when something sparked in his mind about making the festival better for children.
“I wanted to bring back the idea of a community picnic,” he says. “Get them (the children) involved — that’s the whole idea,” D’Urso says. “Give them an idea of what’s out there.”
And so for the past two years, youths and young families pack the Guy Cole Convention Center surrounding fields at Carrie Blake Park to touch and see emergency vehicles, see baseball games, play games and get information from various community groups and more.
“To me it’s one of the most enjoyable events (of the festival),” D’Urso says.
The Kids Day event was formerly hosted at the Boys & Girls Club. With a bit more room at Carrie Blake, the venue hosts baseball and softball games at nearby fields, the start of a bicycle poker run, food vendors and a football camp put on by the adult league Olympic Peninsula Eagles team, not to mention activities inside the Guy Cole building. There, literacy groups, schools, RC clubs and model-makers and more host games and give away educational and fun items.
In all, anywhere from 300-400 people spend time at Kids Day, D’Urso says.
This year, activities are slated for 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, though the poker run and baseball and softball games may start earlier and last beyond 2 p.m.
To handle it all, Kids Day organizers — mainly Sequim Sunrise Rotary members, about 25 in all — are there to set it up and break it all down.
“Because it’s a fun (event), it’s not hard to get volunteers for it,” D’Urso says.
“There are a lot of reasons you live in a small town,” says Tenhulzen. This, he says, is one of them.
The Sequim Irrigation Festival’s eighth annual Carousel Cruzz ‘n Shine starts with the car parade that hits downtown Sequim on parade day at 10:45 a.m., then turns into the “Car Show ’n Shine” from noon-5 p.m. at the Walmart parking lot.
On the surface, it’s a few folks driving their cars down the road and showing them off in a big lot.
But like looking under the hood of a car, there’s much more to it than that.
Chairman Burton Karapostoles says his work starts in January with contacting sponsors and by February he’s mailing out registrations, following up with sponsors and drafting promotional posters. By March he’s contacting a volunteer staff that swells to 15, calling businesses in Sequim, Port Angeles and Port Townsend for prizes for car show entrant goodie bags. About 30 businesses contribute more than $1,000 for the event, Karapostoles says.
When it comes to the day of the parade, it’s a flurry of activity starting at 7 a.m. for day-of-show registrants.
Attendance jumped from 130 two years ago to 160 last year, the festival’s biggest ever. About half of those, Karapostoles says, take part in the parade, but he’s aiming for 100 this year.
“More and more are out-of-town (entrants) every year,” Karapostoles says. “Most car shows don’t get a parade.”
Besides the chairman’s time — he estimates about 230 hours total — there are three judges, four at the registration table, five to help set up with parking and two announcers.
The car show also gets a boost from local sponsors, with 2011 seeing seven major sponsors. Call Karapostoles at 582-0096 for more car show information.
Fryer has helped with the Irrigation Festival for 20-plus years, but it’s his first time to chair the grand parade, set this year for a noon start on Saturday, May 14. His work, he says, starts in earnest in September and October, when he sends out “save-the-date” notices. Those are particularly important for schools, he says, so that “they can get their bands on a schedule.”
The work quiets down a bit, he says, until February when the chairman assigns parade committee chairmen to handle various parade-related tasks: writing press releases and announcements; mapping out staking (showing where parade entrants go to be in line, a major effort); organizing the parade lineup and reviewing stand; judging the entries; manning the dispersal area at the JCPenney parking lot; ordering and picking up awards; handling registration; providing shuttle service; assisting parade marshals; coordinating the school bus unloading zone and float trailer parking; and much more.
More than 50 Sequim Noon Rotary members are hard at work behind the scenes of the parade, also getting a hand from Sequim Sunrise Rotarians who will walk the parade and make sure the floats move along safely and in good time.
That’s key, Fryer says, with up to 120 individual parade entrants.
Anything more than that, Fryer says, and “it gets long and starts breaking up.”
Fryer took over the parade chair duties from Alice (Beebe) Roragen, a 10-year-veteran of the job. Fryer says festival organizers generally hear from 30-40 groups right away and will see 150-160 applicants total. Many of them, 70 or 80 or so, send in their applications in the last week to 10 days.
“Usually they can count on decent weather,” Fryer says of the parade’s popularity. “We try to make out-of-towners feel welcome.”
If only they knew what it takes.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.