The Sequim Irrigation Festival in Washington

by Mark Orwell

The Sequim Irrigation Festival is an annual celebration that has been going on in Sequim, Washington, since 1896. That's more than 100 years of parades, home cooking, music and entertainment. Officially, the festival honors the irrigation technology that made the farming town a possibility, but it's more than that. It's about the endurance of years of family, tradition and community.


The first Sequim Irrigation Festival took place on May 1, 1986. It involved the residents of Dungeness County and the surrounding area, including both city folk and farmers. At this time, D.R. Callen, James R. Grant, H. Hucksford and Thomas Jones and their team of laborers -- men, women and children from the area -- completed an irrigation project that rejuvenated the arid plains in the county, paving the way for the farming community that would become Sequim. To honor these men, this festival takes place every May as a reminder of the ingenuity that helped create a lasting town.

Popular Events

The main events that are part of the Sequin Irrigation Festival include the grand parade, considered to be a focal point of the festival. Businesses and community groups put together floats and parade them through the downtown area, along with local bands and performers. Before this parade, a smaller one showcasing classic cars follows a similar route. A carnival, an open market and a fireworks display round out some of the festival's most popular events.


In addition to regular events, the festival features a number of competitions. Big, burly men from around the world get together for the Strongman Showdown, which showcases tire flips, car lifts and truck pools, among other feats of strength. A juried art show also takes place, run by Sequim Arts, an organization composed of more than 150 artists from the Olympic Peninsula. Finally, there is the Irrigation Festival Pageant, a scholarship event that crowns the festival royalty, who will represent the community and ride on the pageant float during the festival parade.

Kids Events

The Sequim Irrigation Festival is a family-friendly event with a number of happenings aimed particularly at kids. The Kid's Day Picnic, for instance, has small events meant to get the tykes involved in the festival spirit. They include a dog park wagathon, a barbecue and plenty of square dancing. A separate parade also occurs for kids ages 12 and under. Prizes are given for the best costumes and the most spirit.