Irrigation Festival to kick off with dinner Saturday
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Jamestown native Elaine Grinnell has been named as Grand Marshal for the 2013 Irrigation Festival.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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By Joe Smillie

Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Festivities for the Irrigation Festival, the oldest in the state now at 118 years, begins in earnest with the Kick-Off Dinner at 7 Cedars Casino on Saturday at 5 p.m.

The dinner is the festival's major fundraiser and provides the first peek at the city's float along with honoring the festival's dignitaries.

This year's grand marshal is close to both Sequim as well as 7 Cedars, which is owned by the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe.

Probably the tribe's most revered living storyteller, Elaine Grinnell, will be second-generation grand marshal for the 2013 Irrigation Festival, which gets under way in earnest in May.

“I really do feel honored, and, gee, kind of thrilled,” Grinnell said.

Her mother, Mildred Judson, was the first member of the Jamestown tribe to be given the grand marshal honor.

“That means so much to me because of how intertwined we all are here,” Grinnell said. “We're all working together because we all care about the ecology and we all care about climate change and this wonderful place where we live.”

Elaine and her husband of 52 years, Fred, have three children, Jack, Julie and Kurt, plus nine grandchildren.

The couple live on the same Jamestown property that has remained in her family over the decades.

She served on the Tribal Council in the early 1970s and today is an honored elder.

For the past several years, Grinnell — a direct descendant of the last Klallam chief, Chetzemoka — has been a storyteller of Klallam legends, especially at the annual canoe journeys.

She is a member of the Northwest Native American Basket Weavers Association and Northwest Native American Storytellers Association, teaching others how to tell stories.

Neil Cays and Esther Heuhslein Nelson will serve as grand pioneers for the 2013 festival.

Grand pioneers are natives of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley whose lives have made a mark in the valley's history.

Cays, 78, grew up milking cows and bucking bales of hay on his family's farm near Carlsborg.

He had planned to study animal husbandry at Washington State University and take over the family farm on the road which bears his family's name until an optometrist who had cattle on the Cays farm suggested that he “may not want to squat with cows all my life.”

“It didn't take long to realize there was a better way to make a living,” Cays said.

He earned his degree in optometry from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore.

After practicing in Central Washington for 14 years, he decided to move back to his hometown in 1970.

He has had an optometry practice in Sequim ever since. He still practices two days a week with no plans to retire.

He and wife Sally have six children, 10 grandchildren, one great-granchild and two great-grandchildren on the way.

His leisure activities include golf and sailing, and his civic involvement has included Kiwanis and the Lions Club.

Nelson also grew up milking cows and raising hay on her family's 150-acre Agnew dairy and poultry farm.

A 1946 graduate of Sequim High School, Nelson earned a business degree from Peninsula College and worked 32 years as a counselor for the Washington State Employment Office in Port Angeles.

She and Ray Nelson have been married since then, and she has two children from a previous marriage, Vickie Crane and Nick Larson, two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Nelson, 84, has received numerous awards and honors, including 1996 Sequim Citizen of the Year, 2001 Washington Volunteer Information Center Volunteer of the Year and 2004-2005 Ladies of Elks Woman of the Year, as well as serving as grand marshal of the 2006 Irrigation Festival parade.

In 2009, Nelson was named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Sequim Rotary Club.

She helped publish two “Sequim Pioneer Family Histories” and is an expert on the county's old schools.

She has been the volunteer trainer at the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce for more than 10 years.

Named as honorary pioneers for their mark on the city this year are longtime teacher Harry Schlaffman and farmer/business operator Nancy Jarmuth Smith.

Honorary pioneers have had to call Sequim home for more than 40 years.

Schlaffman was the business education teacher for nearly three decades of Sequim High School graduates, between 1957-1985.

He said he taught with a philosophy of, “We're here to learn, but let's make it fun!”

Born in Beulah, N.D., he served in the 82nd Airborne Division in parachute training at Fort Knox, Ky., and in South Carolina.

Under the G.I. Bill, he earned his bachelor's degree from Valley City State University in Valley City, N.D. He began teaching in Sequim in 1957, moving here with his wife, Bonnie, and their children, Rikk and Taryn.

After he retired in 1985, he felt he should contribute to the community, so he ran for the Sequim City Council and served three terms from 1988-1995.

He was influential in getting the Sequim bypass of U.S. Highway 101 built.

After his wife's death in 1997, at a school reunion in Beulah he rekindled a relationship with a former classmate, Lois Alice Messmer, and they married in 1999, when they were in their early 70s.

Nancy Jarmuth Smith, 84, came to her aunt and uncle's farm north of Sequim with her twin sister in 1929 when they were 18 months old.

She grew up on the Straits Farm — now the site of Graysmarsh Berry Farm on Holland Road — then a dairy owned by her Aunt Agnes and Uncle Frank Holland.

Nancy and her twin, Mary, were one of three sets of twins in their school class — the Jarmuth girls, the Frost brother and sister and the Campbell girls.

The Smiths ran Straits Farm before selling it to operate Smitty's Shell Service Station, located at what is now Hurricane Coffee Co., and Smith and Sprague, a hardware and appliance store located on the present site of U.S. Bank in downtown Sequim.

Smith is an accomplished artist — specializing in pen and ink drawings of Sequim's old barns and landmarks — a watercolorist and a photographer.

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

Last modified: March 18. 2013 6:16PM
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