READY. SET. GROW.

// Princess Promenade kicks off 2014 Daffodil Festival season

Even a slick of snow on the ground couldn’t keep a bumper crop of new Daffodil Princesses from making their first appearance as a court for the 2014 festival year, at the Daffodil Festival Princess Promenade on Friday, Feb. 7. Serving as the official kick-off for the upcoming season of public appearances and community events and service, Promenade also marks the official presentation of each princess with the tiara, sash and golden daffodil necklace that they will wear throughout the year.

The event found itself in a new venue this year at Puyallup’s Pioneer Park pavilion, which was brightly decorated with glowing golden daffodils and cheerful garden gnomes, in keeping with the 2014 theme, “Ready. Set. Grow,” for the 81st festival year.

For one of the Princesses, Ji Larson from Lincoln High School, the fact that the festival already has such a legacy behind it is a great responsibility. “There have been tons of people whose lives have been touched by this festival. Personally it is an honor to be a part of it and carry on the spirit of Daffodil.”

Princess Kayla McElligot, from Fife High School, concurs: “Knowing that there have been princesses representing Pierce County for 81 years is humbling…You know that you have been given this title and you have to honor it with grace and dignity, and represent your high school and community just as others have done before you.”

Each of the young ladies was escorted by a member of the Daffodil Festival and their Educator of the Year, an educator nominated by each princess from their respective high school as outstanding in his or her field.

As a part of the evening’s festivities, Pierce County Council Member Joyce MacDonald read a resolution passed by the council declaring the princesses as Official Ambassadors of Pierce County. The governing body has done so for the past two years of Daffodil royal courts, as well, on behalf of the positive effect the festival has on the promotion and representation of the county at festivals around the Pacific Northwest.

A presentation by the Pierce County branches of the YMCA included the gift to each of the princesses of a yearlong membership, in appreciation of the partnership the festival has forged with the organization in recent years.

The event itself was a discernible product of the Festival’s inherent connection to its supportive community, with appetizers and dessert provided by the Adriatic Grill and beverages by Anthem Coffee. The Educator of the Year program itself, now in its tenth year, is sponsored by Lexus of Tacoma at Fife.

Some of the community dignitaries present at the event included Pierce County Council member Dan Roach, Washington State Representative Hans Zeiger, Mayor of Puyallup John Knutsen, and Mayor of Sumner Dave Enslow.

The 25 young ladies representing the festival were each individually selected by their own high schools in October and November, and have been preparing rigorously since then for their coming responsibilities as Daffodil Princesses.

Princess Nina Thatch, from Mt. Tahoma, is still reveling in the feeling of being officially designated a princess of the Daffodil Festival.

“I feel honored to have a title that means so much to the community as well as the opportunity to represent my school, my county, and all the people that look up to this festival. Everywhere I go, I hear ‘Princess’ and it just sinks in that it is actually true.”

The young women chosen by their schools to represent Tacoma this year included Delaney Fry from Stadium, Sarah Schroeder from Wilson, Nina Thatch from Mt. Tahoma, Lydia Mangan from Foss, and Ji Larson from Lincoln.

For Princess Delaney, the heritage of the festival, and its ties to the community, serve as the most inspiring element of the Daffodil Festival’s impact on Pierce County.

“They truly care about the community; you can definitely see it by how seriously the princesses take their responsibility. I find it very inspiring, how much the festival wants to support the citizens of Pierce County, of all generations.”

Princess Sarah’s fond memories of combing through the newspaper for news of the princesses, and seeing them on Parade Day, have made way for very real friendships, and a legacy she never expected.

“When I was younger, you were just able to see the surface of the festival and the girls, but now that I am personally involved, I see that there is so much more history and great relationships that I am just getting into.”

Princess Lydia went from looking up to her cousin Arielle Valenzuela, who was a 2006 Princess from Washington High School, to being inspired by the royal company she has now joined.

“They are all so sweet and everything they do is for the good of everyone! I can tell that each and every one is eager to serve the community… I can tell I'll have quite a few lifelong friends after all is said and done.”

The princesses already have many events lined up as a part of their official Daffodil duties, including reading at libraries around Pierce County on Saturday, Feb. 15, as well as the Fourth Annual Daffodil Day at the South Hill mall on Saturday, March 1.

Princess Stephanie Jackson-Buena, the Daffodil Festival representative from Chief Leschi High School, is enthusiastic about the events of the coming year, and is equally excited about princesses to come, having this advice to offer: “Put your best foot forward, have a plan, and just have fun, because it’s a great experience!”

On Friday, March 7, a month from the day they were officially declared princesses, one of the 25 young ladies will be chosen as Queen, at the annual Daffodil Festival Coronation event, at Life Center in Tacoma.

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