Royalty-to-be takes center stage

Pageant marks opening of 118th Irrigation Festival

Release the irrigation valves and primp the princesses’ hair because it’s pageant time.

This Saturday’s Sequim Irrigation Festival Royalty Pageant marks the beginning of the 118th year for Washington’s oldest festival.

Four Sequim High School juniors — Angela Bentley, 16; Lavee Hess, 16; Christie Honore, 17; and Danyelle Wilson, 16 — take the stage in the Sequim High School auditorium for a chance at becoming queen for a year.

All year long they’ll appear in parades and community events and perform community service, all to represent Sequim. As a bonus, the queen receives a $1,000 college scholarship while princesses receive $750.

Pageant directors Whitley Sakas and Lynn Horton promise an entertaining evening and big changes from past pageants. New emcees Jodi Watson, a former Miss Teen Washington competitor, and Chuck Livingston, guest announcer for KSQM radio, liven up the evening, too.

New for this year’s competition: Out are the formal speeches and in are creative displays in which the young women share a talent.

The girls span the arts as they take on poetry, music, acting and painting. Bentley plans to read her poem “Generation Y,” spanning Sequim’s 100 years and comparing today’s generation with Sequim’s yesteryears. Hess sings and plays guitar on pop star Pink’s song “Perfect.” Later, Honore takes her love for acting the Shakespearean route with a compilation of soliloquies as Helena from “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Wilson whisks her paintbrush to share a painting and her process.

Sakas, a pageant director for several years, said every single young woman has something she is striving to perfect and she and Horton have done all they can to help the young women through the process.

Each girl is taking on a new task by creating a personal platform, sharing a goal that the royalty will tackle.

Hess’ goal is to help with the Sequim Food Bank to combat hunger. Honore plans to promote performing arts in schools, namely acting, and Wilson wants to visit retirement homes and socialize with retirees. Bentley said her platform involves working with elementary schools in developing a love for reading with students.

If there’s time through the year, all the girls’ platforms will be attempted, Horton said.

So the spotlight’s on and the girls step up. Here are some more tidbits about the contestants:

Angela Bentley

Growing up in Sequim, Angela Bentley saw her sister Molly go through the pageant process as a princess.

She put on her sister’s crown and sash and knew then she wanted to do it.

“I think I can be a good role model, too,” she said.

Bentley has been involved in a multitude of hobbies from ballet to photography to acting to traveling the globe to writing a coming-of-age novel while holding onto plans to attend college in New York.

Even when she’s away at college, Bentley said, Sequim will be her hometown.

“It’s where my family is where they’ll be when I’m at college,” she said. “It’s a place that to me will always be a small town.”

She said her family lives all over the world and she loves seeing them. She’s a “tiny bit nervous” about the pageant but is looking forward to wearing an evening gown designed by her mom.


Lavee Hess

While the other girls have lived here their whole lives, Hess moved to Sequim five years ago from Las Vegas, Nev.

“To me it’s my first home,” Hess said. “Other places I’ve lived I haven’t felt as welcome. I also like watching the waves of the water. It’s relaxing.”

Hess said she stands a good chance to be queen because even though she hasn’t been here all her life, she has a passion to help younger children and encourage them to follow their goals, as she has done.

“I know I’m dedicated and being a role model for young kids and helping out in the community would be amazing,” she said.

Hess continues to be a cheerleader when not singing and writing songs on piano and guitar. She finds a lot of importance in her family and music.

“I’ve gone through a lot in my life with family situations that have made me stronger and music has helped me cope with that,” Hess said.

Christie Honore

A Sequim native, Honore said as a little girl she went to the festival’s grand parade and various events and always wanted to be a part of it. She saw the princesses and queen and wanted to represent Sequim and volunteer while making a difference.

“I’m dedicated in whatever I do,” she said. If she’s selected as queen, she sees herself bringing the same level of effort to the title as everything else she does. Honore developed a love of theater at age 8 when she auditioned for a role in “Hansel and Gretel” for Missoula Children’s Theater. She is vice president of the high school’s operetta club and has appeared in 15 different plays.

When reflecting on her time in Sequim, she said, “It’s the epitome of the American dream. It has a good sense of community and amazing beauty. I think my heart will always be here.”

Danyelle Wilson

Wilson’s family tree has deep roots in Sequim. She said her great-grandma was a Grand Pioneer in the festival.

Wilson’s great-grandmother died on Halloween last year and being on the royalty is a tribute to her.

Another reason she’s on the court is a tragic event that stands out in Wilson’s life. In 2001, as a third-grader, she was severely injured in a car crash. Her hospital bills were tremendous, she said, but small businesses and the community raised money and held a spaghetti feed to help out her family.

“This is one way for me to give back,” Wilson said.

An artist at heart, Wilson loves art and followed her mom into the world of oil painting. She also likes crocheting hats and drawing and swims and bowls for the Sequim teams.

Wilson said Sequim always will be her home in some fashion. “It’s where I’m happiest.”

All of the girls said their favorite part of the pageant rehearsals have been getting to know one another.

“I like having only four girls because it’s nice not having to worry that one of us won’t be a princess,” Bentley said. “We’re all becoming friends and enjoying hanging out.”

Horton and Sakas see the pageant as an opportunity for the community to show support for its young people.

“This is an event where you have a group of young ladies who want to support it by giving a year of their lives to this community,” Sakas said. “The least we can do is go see them compete.”

Horton said the first event for the Irrigation Festival is one way the girls give back. “It’s for our town,” she said. “We hold this for our town and not to make money.”

For more information on the festival, visit