SEQUIM — The first virtual rendition of the Sequim Irrigation Festival drew an unexpected audience.
“The cool thing was that it had lots of family members from all over the United States that actually tuned in,” said Deon Kapetan, festival executive director, on Sunday after the virtual events on Saturday.
“It was a new audience we never planned on,” she said.
The festival’s 125th year was celebrated with mostly online events because of precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Usually scheduled on two weekends in May, the festival was postponed until this month, and then, when it became clear the virus remained a threat, it was a matter of finding a way to make sure the state’s longest continuously running festival continued to hold that distinction, Kapetan said.
“We put something together so we can continue to have a festival,” she said, adding that the board will discuss at its next meeting how to be prepared if, against all hopes, it is necessary to conduct the festival virtually in 2021.
“In hindsight, it was difficult to plan when the target is moving all the time,” Kapetan said.
“If we can have live events, it’s much easier to throw those in.”
Recordings of online events are available now for those who missed them live. They can be found on irrigationfestival.com by clicking on the red “Check out Irrigation Festival Live” button.
Virtual “booths” are there for the annual events that could be presented online: the Crazy Daze Breakfast, Past Royalty Luncheon, Family Fun Day, Kids Parade, Grand Parade and fireworks show, as well as the Innovative Arts and Crafts Fair, the only festival event that could be attended in person.
Kapetan said she enjoyed watching the fireworks show on a television screen in her gazebo with a few other festival organizers.
“The only thing we were missing was the smell of sulphur,” she said.
But the highlight of the festival was, as always, the Grand Parade.
The route was kept secret before the parade happened Saturday evening so as to avoid encouraging large gatherings.
“It was kind of like a flash mob,” Kapetan said.
Led by Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain, festival royalty, junior royalty, grand marshal, pioneers and others such as Sound Community Bank’s orcas car traveled from the float barn on Fifth Avenue to Old Olympic Highway, turned east to Sequim Avenue, south to Washington Street, west to Priest Road, north to Hendrickson Road then west to 5th Avenue and back to the float barn, Kapetan said. The parade took about 45 minutes.
For members of the royal court — Prince Logan Laxson, Princess Brii Hingtgen, Princess Alicia Pairadee and Queen Lindsey Coffman — this is the only parade they were in this year. Most years, the Sequim Irrigation Festival royal court and its float participate in parades all over the state.
Interviewing participants before the parade began was Julianne Coontz, a former Irrigation Festival queen and the mother of a member of the festival royalty in years past.
Coontz will take over as executive director of the festival in 2021, said Kapetan, who has led the festival for a decade and served on the board for two decades.
She’ll remain on the board, but Coontz, 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.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].
Sequim Gazette reporter Matthew Nash contributed to this story.