Stephen Olts, a former Irrigation Festival director, festival float builder and a Grand Pioneer for the 2017 festival, died on July 13. He was 79.
The festival’s director from 1987-1988, Olts helped build the royalty float for several years and helped form a group that builds the float and walks with it at events.
In a 2017 Sequim Gazette profile, he said he fondly remembered the festival from his time as a boy being in a lot of “kiddie parades” and one of his earliest memories was riding on the queen’s float as a page in the first grade.
“Nobody ever thinks that you’ll be Grand Pioneer,” Olts said in 2017. “(They) never think they’ll live long enough.”
Olts sold real estate for Larry McHugh and later worked for McLean’s Shoe Store until he began his losing his vision and retired in 1980.
Along with his time with the Irrigation Festival, he led a busy life of service including coaching soccer, volunteering for the Cub Scouts/Boy Scouts/Explorer programs, and serving more than 10 years with the Sequim Jaycees.
Olts was born Oct. 26, 1941, on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Washington Street in Sequim. He grew up in Sequim and graduated from Sequim High in 1959, then went on to serve in the U.S. Navy for three years. He later attended Peninsula College and Western Washington University.
In 1968, he married Jan Kendall, a Port Angeles native and granddaughter of Carroll C. Kendall. The couple have two children, Amy and Matt.
Olts served on the Sequim City Council for two years, and for eight years on the Sequim Planning Commission. He said he was proud to have served when city councilors agreed to purchase the property for Carrie Blake Park — now Carrie Blake Community Park — and the property that later became the Clallam Transit Center.
Olts said in 2017 that when he took office, Sequim city limits only spanned from near the grain elevator to Pioneer Memorial Park, and that his first council meeting was in the former city hall that the current Sequim Civic Center replaced.
He and Beverly Cays Hendrickson were named Grand Pioneers for the 122nd Sequim Irrigation Festival in 2017.