Irrigation Festival crowd greets Obama marchers

SEQUIM, WA—Members of Clallam County for Obama marched in the 117th Irrigation Festival parade, May 12, carrying their banner and chanting “Four More Years” as crowds along the route applauded and gave the thumbs-up salute.

Prominent was a hand lettered placard that proclaimed, “Obama Biden stand for = Rights!” The women and men in the Obama contingent were African American, Native American Indian, and white. Members of the Service Employees International Union joined the contingent.

Obama reelection leaders were elated by the warm response from the big crowds on a perfect spring day. Some in the crowd even stood up to give the marchers a standing ovation as they marched by.

Obama had just visited Seattle to speak May 10 hours after he endorsed equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians, a stand that galvanized an outpouring of support for his reelection here and across the nation. The Washington State Legislature enacted, and Gov. Christine Gregoire signed, a marriage equality statute into state law this past session.

But rightwing extremists are trying to put an initiative on the ballot in the November election to reverse the law.

The Obama contingent shared the parade route with dozens who marched for Democrat Derek Kilmer who is running for the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives vacated by Rep. Norm Dicks, a Democrat.

Gleaming tractors and fully loaded logs trucks also trundled along. Drivers punctuated the celebration with frequent blasts from the air horns on the huge log trucks.

The “Makah Days” float carried princesses for the annual tribal festival in Neah Bay in a few weeks. The Sequim High School Marching Band was one of a dozen high school bands that marched and played. Clallam County women played the key role in organizing the Obama-Biden contingent, applying for and pushing hard to win approval of a permit that was not approved until two days before the parade.

While elected officials have been invited to join in previous Irrigation Festival parades, this may be the first time supporters of a presidential political candidate marched. There was no contingent marching for Republican Mitt Romney.

The Obama campaign did not march in the Irrigation Festival parade in 2008 although in the July 4 parades in Forks and Port Angeles that year it was the biggest and most enthusiastic participant. Clallam County for Obama plans to march again in Forks and Port Angeles July 4 as well as send contingents to march in other festivals on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The Irrigation Festival royalty rolled by on a float that depicted the water flowing over the parched valley in the rain-shadow of the Olympic Mountains. The festival’s slogan is, “117 and Still Growing Green.” This is the oldest continuously observed festival in Washington State and celebrates the completion of a valley-wide network of irrigation ditches in 1896, drawing glacial water from the Dungeness river and transforming the semi-arid Sequim-Dungeness valley into a dairy-land rich in production of hay and silage.  Now that has been supplanted by production of organic vegetables and lavender.

Photo: (PW/via Tim Wheeler)


Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler estimates he has written 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper. He lives in Sequim, Wash., in the home he shared with his beloved late wife Joyce Wheeler. His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a kind of history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view.