For several days each May, the green fields between Sequim High School and Helen Haller Elementary School become home to amusement rides, games of chance and cotton candy.
That may not be the case come 2014.
Officials from the Sequim School District have asked Irrigation Festival organizers to find another venue for the carnival, most recently provided by the Davis Carnival in 2012 and 2013.
Sequim schools superintendent Kelly Shea said he approached the festival with a request, not an ultimatum, to find another venue.
At issue, the superintendent noted is, among other things ensuring safety for Sequim’s students. Workers at the carnival often camp on land by Helen Haller and the Boys & Girls Club and walk between Helen Haller and the high school during the festival and during the carnival’s set-up and breakdown.
“It does present a safety concern; they are camping on our grounds,” Shea said. “We have no idea who these people are.”
Some teachers at Helen Haller have complained that the carnival’s presence comes at a particularly bad time: statewide MSP testing.
Shea calls that disruption a “huge issue.”
Finally, the carnival takes up space normally used by the high school’s softball team — one preparing for postseason tournaments — for the better part of a week.
“If there’s a way it can be relocated that works for the Irrigation Festival, the school district would be appreciative,” Shea said.
Irrigation Festival director Deon Kapetan said festival leaders are sympathetic to the school district’s issues and are slated to begin negotiations this summer to move the carnival to one of two locations.
One piece of property is owned by the City of Sequim, Kapetan said, and the other is on private property. She refused to divulge locations so as not to affect negotiations but did confirm that both sites were within the city limits.
The topic of moving isn’t a new one, Kapetan said, as the festival has looked for a new location before.
“During the carnival and when setting up, it’s quite a distraction for kids,” Kapetan said. “They are in the middle of testing, so it’s really hard for kids to focus when they can see all that going on.”
Another reason for the move is the elements. A few years ago, hard rain and heavy foot traffic damaged the fields leaving the nonprofit festival to foot the bill.
The carnival is one of the biggest fundraisers for the festival annually with early estimates level with last year. Since festival organizers switched to Davis Carnival, more people have attended, Kapetan said; however, criminal activity hasn’t risen and did not prompt the move.
“We’re pretty well covered and usually have two officers there full time,” she said.
Another deterrent for the carnival returning to the school grounds is the slated move of Sequim High School’s varsity fastpitch field to the junior varsity baseball field.
Fastpitch coach Mike McFarlen and volunteers plan to grade the former JV baseball field, plant grass and install a permanent fence to protect the field.
Dave Ditlefsen, the high school’s athletic director, said the move creates better accessibility and prevents ongoing problems.
“It’s more convenient for fans,” he said. “(At the new field), they’re not hitting balls into the tennis courts and going into the road. Plus there’s no parking lot or bathroom (at the current fastpitch field).”
The JV baseball squad plays on an alternating schedule with the varsity squad. One team is away and the other at home, Ditlefsen said, and the JV team’s field is rarely used.
“There’s still plenty of space out there for football, youth soccer, and Wolf Pups,” Ditlefsen added.
For more information on the carnival, visit irrigationfestival.com.