Sequim Irrigation Festival parade is today, and for queen, it’s another chance to appreciate her town

SEQUIM — She’s the queen of Sequim, and she’s learned not to take life here for granted.

Fallon Schneider, 17, flashes her incandescent smile — and squirms a little — when asked how it feels to be chosen the queen of the court of four town representatives in 17 parades around the Northwest, including the Irrigation Festival Grand Parade to float down Washington Street at high noon today.

“It’s exhilarating . . . I love the little girls’ reactions,” she said during an after-school coffee break at The Buzz on Thursday.

Irrigation Festival princesses are Sarah Berkes, Ashley Fuentes and Sierra Shelden.

One of the most important aspects of being festival queen, Schneider added, is setting a good example, since in a community this size, pretty much everybody’s watching.

When she bought her coffee, for instance, the barista saw the name on her debit card and gasped, “Are you the queen?”

The best thing about Sequim, can also be the worst thing, Schneider said. “We have a really a close-knit community,” so people take a keen interest in one another.

That also means gossip “spreads like that,” she said, flicking a hand.

Schneider moved back to Sequim in October after a year in Tacoma, where she attended Stadium High School with some 1,900 other teens.

Enjoys beauty of Sequim

Upon her return, she reveled anew in the beauty of this place: “the scenery, the rolling hills, the cows, the ocean, the rivers, the places to hike . . . I took a picture of a deer walking on the road, and sent it to a friend in Tacoma,” and the friend could hardly believe it.

At the same time, Schneider is interested in affairs far beyond the North Olympic Peninsula.

In her room she has a collage of magazine clippings, including one showing a bottle of cloudy water and the question, “One in eight of the world’s people have to drink this. Would you?”

“That put in perspective for me how we take for granted just basic things,” Schneider said.

She’s stopped consuming a plastic bottle of water each day and now carries a reusable bottle.

And Schneider, a junior at Sequim High, dreams of majoring in international relations at an East Coast college, and going to work for an organization such as the United Nations.

Last Thanksgiving she visited a friend, Allison Tjemsland, who is a student at Yale University. It was an eye-opening trip, and now Schneider is thinking about schools like Trinity College in Connecticut.

She’s also in the middle of taking advanced-placement tests for college credit: a four-and-a-half-hour literature examination was Thursday morning, and today it’s the AP history test.

This morning, Schneider, Berkes, Fuentes and Shelden will step up onto the festival float, a creation featuring a model locomotive and a full repertoire of train-oriented songs.

Float, princesses

“Our float is amazing. It doesn’t have all the cheesy, sparkly stuff,” Schneider said.

“It’s just simple,” and it gets across this year’s festival theme: 115 years of pioneers.

“Our dresses,” she added, “stop people in their tracks.”

Lots of festival princesses wear those slinky gowns, but Schneider and her court get to waft about in old-fashioned, ginormous hoop skirts.

“I am very proud,” the queen said, of “all of these people have worked so hard,” to put on the festival.

Schneider is also a fan of Fuentes, Berkes and Shelden.

Fuentes is the quick wit, she said.

Berkes is “the mom of the group,” who curls all four girls’ hair and drives them around, since she’s the only one with a car.

Shelden is the “firecracker,” also known as the extra-small one of the group.

The queen’s best friend, however, is her mother Kim Schneider.

“I really respect her. And we’re friends, but she’s not one of those moms who tries to be ‘cool’ . . . She has gone through more things than most people I know,” yet she is always optimistic, and her daughter has never heard her complain.

So far, Schneider has waved her way through just one big procession, the April 10 Daffodil Festival parade through Tacoma.

It’s an unalloyed thrill seeing all those faces — and her mother was among them.

Kim Schneider plans to watch the Sequim girls in each of the other parades, from Seattle to Hoquiam, between now and the last one of the season in October.

The peak, quite possibly, comes today, when Schneider and her court will float through their home town with her favorite song, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” playing loud.

“I dance when I’m up there. I don’t know how you couldn’t.” she said. “When the crowd sees you, they just start laughing.”

And that, said the queen who doesn’t take herself too seriously, is what it’s all about.


Sequim-Dungeness Valley Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]

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