Families, schools and communities came together Friday, March 7, as the Daffodil Festival’s 2014 Royal Court took the stage at Life Center to see who would be awarded the title of Queen for the current festival year.
KING 5’s Chris Egan and current reigning Miss Washington Reina Almon oversaw the proceedings. Egan kicked off the night by sprinkling the stage with confetti he had brought home from his coverage of the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl win, while Almon commended the Festival’s commitment to the young women as ambassadors of Pierce County.
The princesses gave their 25 speeches all themed around the 2014 Festival theme of “Ready, Set, Grow!” Daffodil Coronation mainstay Kerry Yanasak played piano in between the princess’ speeches, as he has for over 20 years.
Nina Thach, from Mt. Tahoma High School, was under a fair amount of pressure as the first princess of the night to give a speech. However, she was ready and prepared with her own special form of public speaking:
“I don’t memorize my speech word by word,” she said, “because that wouldn’t help me express myself. I had little bullet points in my head … when you walk up on stage, your audience doesn’t know what you’re going to say, so you can’t really mess up if the audience doesn’t know!”
Stephanie Jackson-Buena, from Chief Leschi High School, presented a speech that was grounded in her culture by integrating a native language that is no longer spoken into a moving story of how she helps preserve her heritage:
“Its English name is Salish, and I’ve been learning it since I was 12, but I’m nowhere near fluent, and it was a language spoken throughout the Northwest,” she said. Does she get the opportunity to speak it a lot? “Not as much as I’d like to.”
Kayla McElligott, from Fife High School, spoke of celebrating the milestones in her life. That’s what made her speech so easy, she said.
“My comfort zone is being in front of people, so I wasn’t worried. I walked out and saw my family and people I love… I just wanted to share my story.”
And, of course, she was excited to hear the stories of her peers. “I couldn’t wait to hear what ‘Ready, Set, Grow!’ meant to the other princesses.”
Delaney Fry, from Stadium High School, described the growth of a garden, and how this mirrors the abilities of the individual to help a community blossom, just like flowers.
Lydia Mangan, from Henry Foss High School, gave a worldly speech, focusing on her time spent abroad as an exchange student in France, and performing ballet in China, pertinent experiences for the ambitious future travel journalist.
Ji Larson, from Lincoln High School, gave an impassioned speech about overcoming challenges. Worried about speaking in front of a crowd, Ji found strength in her regal peers. “All the Princesses were so supportive… they all told me that I did well and to relax and have fun because the hard part was over. I was kind of shaking and Lydia even held my hand after I sat down next to her. Everyone is so sweet.”
Sarah Schroeder, from Wilson High School, spoke of the anxiety of trying something new, and the success of accomplishing those goals, similar to the same feelings she was experiencing that night:
“I was so ready… but, of course, once you start walking down that aisle, it hits you that all these people are looking and waiting to hear from you! Kind of nerve-racking, but once I got up there to say my speech, that all went away.”
After the speeches concluded, Microsoft’s Mike Egan was there to share the good news – and trade some quips with his younger brother Chris Egan – that each princess was to be awarded the use of a Microsoft Surface, for use in juggling schoolwork with princess duties during their busy reign.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department was also there to announce another princess partnership with the Charlie’s Dinosaur Foundation, which works to instill security and positivity in the lives of foster children.
After that, the princesses got the opportunity to strut their stuff to a performance of “We Are Family,” coordinated by dedicated Daffodil supporter Maria Valenzuela, who is now celebrating her 10th year with the Festival as musical director.
2013 Queen Kenna delivered her goodbye speech, having been escorted in earlier by the Clan Gordon Pipe Band and 2013 Festival President Brad Stevens. She recalled a year’s worth of magical memories, including eating strawberry shortcakes with the Marysville Strawberry Festival Queen and dancing to One Direction’s “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” in 2013’s float dance.
Mt. Tahoma’s Nina Thach was awarded the title of Miss Congeniality, as voted on by her princess peers. The title comes with a scholarship from the Tacoma Yacht Club, which not only hosts the princesses at a special annual dinner but also sponsors the Daffodil Marine Parade.
The most important thing for Thach was that her princesses were the ones to pick the title. “I felt loved by all of them, and once I heard my name, I couldn’t have asked for anything better than to see everyone’s smiles around me.”
However, it wasn’t just her fellow princesses that made the night special: Daffodilian Ernie Ouellette had given her some words of encouragement. “He told me, ‘Be proud to be called this title… There’s nothing better than to be recognized and loved by the ones who have loved you these past four months. It shows your character more than any other title you could have received.’”
Stadium’s Delaney Fry was awarded the title of Second Runner Up, and said that she was proud of the strength of her court. “When I look at our Royal Court – at all of us – I could have named so many people for any of these titles. We just have an amazing group of young women here… I knew we had all worked very hard to get to this point, and we did it together.”
Wilson’s Sarah Schroeder was given the title of First Runner Up, and concurred, saying that the title could have belonged to anyone. “I knew I gave it all I had, but I just don’t think any of us knew what the outcome was going to be. We all deserved it. It was truly an overall exciting night.”
The evening ended with the presentation of the 2014 Daffodil Festival Queen Marissa Modestowicz, from Emerald Ridge High School.
With that, Lydia Mangan, from Foss, felt like the Court was finally complete, and the journey could really start. “We’re more ready than ever to continue our work as leaders and mentors in our community. Marissa is going to make a fantastic Queen and will represent this Festival and Pierce County perfectly… This year will be one we’ll never forget and I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of it.”