WEEKEND: Sequim Irrigation Festival makes its splash Saturday

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Between the mountains and the sea lies a lush green valley that, thanks to miles and miles of irrigation ditches, has produced food for generations.

The celebration of that place in the 119th Irrigation Festival opens with the annual Kickoff Dinner on Saturday to lead the 2014 celebration themed “Mountains to Sea . . . a Pristine Place to Be.”

The dinner and auction will begin at 5 p.m. at Club Seven in 7 Cedars Casino, 270756 U.S. Highway 101 in Blyn.

The 200-seat dinner is sold out, but those looking to share in the early hype for Washington's oldest continually run festival can still turn out to meet Irrigation Festival royalty, pioneers and many other dignitaries.

The festival runs May 2-11.

Float roll-out

Just before the dinner, at 4:45 p.m. will be the first official rollout of the float that Dan Rigg and crew have been assembling since December.

Rigg was working on the float — a turf-covered collection of driftwood, seashells, shore rock and flowers with a working lighthouse built by Brant Parks atop the chassis of a Ford LTD station wagon — in a secret location inside Sequim on Wednesday afternoon.

“It's been quite the effort this year,” he said. “But she'll be good to go when parade season comes around.”

The float will carry Irrigation Festival Queen Katey Tapia and Princesses Kaylee Ditlefsen, Kristina Holtrop and Judi Villella for the first time Saturday.

Longtime Dungeness Valley farmers Gary and Janice Smith will serve as the grand marshals of this year's parade.

“It seemed like a natural fit to have irrigators as the grand marshals of the Irrigation Festival,” said Deon Kapetan, director of the festival.

A dairyman since 1970, Gary Smith has served as past president of the Dungeness Agricultural Water Users Association and past president and board member of the Sequim Prairie Tri-Irrigation Co.

He was honored last month as the 2013 Citizen of the Year by the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“It's been quite the year,” Smith said Wednesday.

Pioneers

The festival's four pioneer honorees also will make their debut appearance Saturday.

Grand pioneers, who were born and raised in the valley, this year will be Jack Stevens and Dorothy Daniels Ludke.

At 80 years old, Stevens, son of Dr. John Stevens, one of the valley's first veterinarians, returned to Sequim 17 years ago after retiring as a scientist and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.

He and his wife, Nancy, have two children and five grandchildren.

Ludke, 83, was the longtime cook in the Helen Haller Elementary School cafeteria. She is the great-granddaughter of John Bell, who donated the city's initial tracts of land.

Ludke and her late husband, Gayhard Ludke, have three children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Honorary pioneers, those who have lived in Sequim for at least 40 years, are Mabel Sorensen and Glenn Greathouse.

Sorensen, 84, has lived in the Sequim area since moving to the area with her logger father, Charles Heine, at the age of 5.

Her family has staked out spots in Creamery Square to watch the Irrigation Festival parade for many years.

She is married to Donald Sorensen, with whom she has four children, five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Greathouse, 82, taught wood shop and coached football in Sequim schools before retiring to run the Greathouse Motel on East Washington Street.

A Sequim resident since 1955, Greathouse served on the City Council from 1992 to 1997.

His wife, Jacquelyn, is deceased. He has three children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Designers on display

Also at the dinner, participants will be able to see the festival's lapel pin and button, and meet the artists who design them.

The dinner and its live and silent auctions are the festival's biggest fundraiser of the year.

Shawnna Rigg and Stephanie Sweet have coordinated the event.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 20. 2014 6:03PM
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