It is a prestigious honor to stir the massive bowl of lentil chili at the annual National Lentil Festival, and 12-year-old Pullman girl Caroline McKeirnan earned that privilege when she was named Lentil Queen last year.

Over the past months, the Lentil Queen has represented Pullman at parades around the Palouse, and on Friday she was excited to return to the event that started it all.

“It’s really fun and I get to see all my friends here,” Caroline said at Reaney Park on Friday.

Wearing her Lentil Queen sash, Caroline was looking forward to stirring the chili being handed out by volunteers to hungry attendees.

She was with her mother, Annie McKeirnan, who said her daughter’s past year serving as Lentil Queen has been a great experience for both of them.

She said all of the towns they have visited on the Palouse have been nothing but welcoming.

“The communities are so special,” Annie McKeirnan said.

Caroline’s aunt, Meghan McKeirnan, was also there to be with her niece and to enjoy one of Pullman’s signature events.

“I came out to support our community,” she said.

The McKerinans are Pullman locals, but some people came as far as the East Coast to join the fun.

Bill Steinmiller, from North Carolina, and his son, Dave Steinmiller, of California, were invited by their relatives who live on the Palouse.

They also made the trip for another reason.

“We came here to get the chili,” Bill Steinmiller said.

Dave Steinmiller said this is the first year they have attended the Lentil Festival, and they are looking forward to the parade today.

Thousands of people packed Reaney Park in the August sunshine to visit the community booths and try the variety of food vendors. Music from the performers on stage filled the air as adults, children and dogs strolled through the park.

“It’s fun to people watch,” Nicole Jacobs said.

She stopped to eat her own bowl of lentil chili, and gave it a positive review.

“It’s good this year,” she said.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to

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