Lake Stevens volunteer carries the water for Aquafest

LAKE STEVENS — Over the past 53 years, a small lakeside celebration called Aquafest has grown into a family festival drawing as many as 40,000 visitors each year to Lake Stevens.

This year, though, was special for Aquafest volunteer Sue Fernalld, 65.

Sure, she served as Aquafest president, but it wasn’t just that. All of her grandchildren got to help at the event, which was held last weekend.

Fernalld, a retired budget analyst, has run the children’s parade at the festival for the past eight years. She started volunteering there nine months after she and her husband, Dennis, moved to Lake Stevens to be closer to their family. Her grandson was young, and she wanted to get involved with Aquafest.

“I thought, ‘Oh man, what a really cool thing for families,’” she said. “I just wanted to see what it was about, and it was a really cool thing.”

She also wanted to use the experience as a way to meet people in town, she said.

A lot of Aquafest visitors grew up in Lake Stevens and cherish their memories of the festival as children and teenagers, Fernalld said.

“I do it because I have a love for the community, and I get such a thrill out of the children’s parade and the families coming to Lake Stevens,” she said. “I have always advocated for inexpensive things for families to do in this community, and this community rallies around Aquafest.”

Two of her grandchildren, Macray Flanders, 8, and Colby Flanders, 5, live in Snohomish. Both their parents teach in the Lake Stevens School District.

Two more, Drew Flanders, 6, and Elsie Flanders, 4, live in Indiana. Their father came to Lake Stevens earlier in July to compete in the Ironman event. The family decided to stay in town through Aquafest — to Grandma’s delight.

The week before the fair, she put the kids to work. They helped stuff about 350 goodie bags to give to children’s parade participants.

Fernalld puts in a ton of work behind the scenes, said Janice Huxford, who is a past Aquafest president and owner of Snohomish Valley Roofing Inc., a festival sponsor.

“Sue’s a firecracker,” Huxford said. “She brings a lot of enthusiasm. She has creative ideas, and she works tirelessly to bring in new fresh approaches to a festival that’s 53 years old now.”

Fernalld worked with police and others to keep the event running smooth, increased the number of sponsors, and found new ways to attract families with small children, Huxford said.

“She likes to ‘checklist,’” Huxford said. “She likes to get things done. … She is tireless in getting things done once and done right.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

Volunteer with Aquafest

For more information about volunteering for Aquafest 2014, go to aquafest.com.

The festival’s needs include people with sports experience and people to help with set up and clean up.

The festival is funded and supported by local businesses, sponsorships and volunteers.

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