“The tradition lives on,” Sequim Irrigation Festival float designer Guy Horton said.
The state’s oldest continuous festival kept its streak alive, this time in mostly online form this past Saturday.
The 125th Sequim Irrigation Festival, forced by COVID-19 restrictions to postpone, modify or cancel a number of events in 2020, highlighted a predominantly “virtual” festival Saturday with a procession of royalty and dignitaries through a portion of Sequim early Saturday evening.
Hosted live on the festival’s web page (irrigationfestival.com), the festival royalty — queen Lindsey Coffman, prince Logan Laxson and princesses Brii Hingtgen and Alicia Pairadee — made their second and last group appearance since being selected earlier this year.
“It’s wonderful,” Laxson said of being given the chance to ride the float through town.
“It’s exciting to get these kids on the float and go through town,” said Horton, who designed his 13th float for the festival. “We wanted to give them as much of an opportunity as we could give them.”
Events were first paused in March and some eventually cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak, such as the carnival and Logging Show.
Two weekends of planned events in May were condensed to Oct. 10 to ensure the festival kept its streak as Washington’s longest continuously running festival, said Deon Kapetan, the festival’s executive director.
“We put something together so we can continue to have a festival,” she said.
For its 30th year, the Innovative Arts and Crafts Fair was the only live event for the festival post-COVID with organizers joining the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market at the Sequim Civic Center.
Along with the parade, other virtual events included: the Crazy Daze Breakfast, Past Royalty Luncheon, Family Fun Day, Kids Parade and fireworks show.
All events can be seen at irrigationfestival.com by clicking the red “Check out Irrigation Festival Live” button. These events remain on the festival’s website for two weeks before shifting to its YouTube page (tinyurl.com/IrrigFest).
Festival dignitaries like Grand Pioneer Walter Grant said they were still happy to participate even with restrictions and event cancellations.
“It’s quite an honor,” Grant said about being a grand pioneer.
Saturday’s event was his first in the parade, and his roots trace back to his great-grandfather James Grant and three other men who determed how to bring irrigation to Sequim and Dungeness.
“I can thank my great-grandfather for this honor,” he said. “He sure helped bring life to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.”
Neil Clayton with the Sequim Pioneer Association honored this year’s pioneers with plaques prior to the parade. He said there are plans for the 2021 Pioneer Dinner that typically honors chosen pioneers to honor this and next year’s recipients.
Along with Grant, Charlotte Fitzgerald served as grand pioneer, along with honorary pioneers Elaine Grinnell and Steve Vause.
Festival organizers selected other dignitaries and participants in the parade included grand marshal Phil Castell; Junior Royalty princesses Karsyn Bidasha, Claire Hardy and Madelyn Schroeder, and prince Bryant Lawson; festival button design winner Mason Blake; City of Sequim Mayor William Armacost; Kapetan, Sequim Citizen of the Year; and Sound Community Bank, the festival’s main sponsor.
Organizers said the procession route was kept secret to avoid encouraging large gatherings, though some residents stood and waved at some intersections.
The procession traveled from Sequim Community Church on Fifth Avenue north to Old Olympic Highway, east to Sequim Avenue, south to Washington Street, west to Priest Road, north to Hendrickson Road and back to the church, Kapetan said.
In previous years, the royalty floats to more than a dozen parades but this was its only adventure aside from a virtual reveal event last month at 7 Cedars Casino.
Horton said the float is now in the float barn awaiting repurposing for the festival’s 126th year.
Julianne Coonts, a former Irrigation Festival queen and the mother of Emily Silva, also past festival queen, will take over as executive director of the festival in 2021, said Kapetan, who has led the festival for a decade and served on its board for two decades.
Kapetan will remain on the board, but Coonts, whom she describes as having great management skills and many new ideas, will be in charge.
“It’s somebody else’s turn, and she’s going to do a great job,” Kapetan said.
Leah Leach and Michael Dashiell contributed to this story.