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// Daffodil Festival coronation finds a new queen – and a new venue

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The Daffodil Festival’s annual Queen’s Coronation event took place the evening of Saturday, March 28, celebrating the Festival’s 82nd year and crowning the 79th monarch to hold the title of queen for the community-wide leadership program.

This year marks a notable difference in venue, as Coronation moved from its past home at Life Center in Tacoma to the more grandiose Pantages Theater in the downtown area. With a history to fit the Daffodil Festival’s illustrious career as a community mainstay for 82 years, the Pantages was the perfect venue to host one of the Festival’s grandest events.

That venue also allowed for more seating room, something necessary for the Festival’s growing attendance rates at this event in recent years, and definitely appreciated by the princesses and their cheering sections, as well.

Princess Kaitlin Ringus, representing Fife High School, had her own section of the audience to her name: the entire first row of the balcony seating – about 30 tickets, by her estimations – had been claimed by her family.

“My parents, brothers, sister in law, aunt and uncle, cousin, boyfriend’s parents, my grandma, my father’s best friends, some of the faculty from my school, and the wonderful family that I nanny for… and some more of my friends.”

It’s that kind of support that’s made this entire princess business possible for her. Said Ringus, “My parents and friends just miss seeing me as much, because my life is so filled with yellow now.”

Lincoln High School’s Princess Athena Sok drew her strength from the audience, especially her own private cheering section made up of parents, friends, nieces and nephews. “It felt really great to know my entire family was out there in the crowd,” she said.

And how do they feel about all of the yellow? “They love bragging about it, even though I tell them not to… my nieces and nephews are ecstatic,” Sok said.

Wilson High School’s Princess Madison Gordon was blown away by the attendance of the evening, as well.

“The best part of the night was seeing all the support we had from the community, and seeing people there both for us and thanking us. We serve because we love it and we are passionate about it, not because we expect anything in return, so it was a nice experience.”

For her, the continued support and interest the community holds in the annual Festival experience, even after 82 years, is what really sets it apart.

“People have this preconceived idea that the Daffodil Festival is a beauty contest, with a parade once a year. All the people there, showing their support for us, is the exact opposite… I didn’t even realize how many people were there until after the whole show was over.”

Some of the Festival’s strongest supporters came out in full force, taking their seats right next to the waiting princesses after they finished their speeches: the Royalty Alumnae.

From Chief Leschi High School, Princess Emily Inskeep was impressed and grateful for the appearance of some of the Festival’s past monarchs. “It was incredible knowing that being a princess and being a part of this family doesn’t just last for one year; it’s a bond that stays forever, and an experience that lasts a lifetime.”

Beyond venue, an additional alteration to the evening’s usual lineup? Instead of high school friends and peers of the princesses, each young lady was escorted in by local servicemen: Master Sergeant Daniel Hagemeier from Olympia, Sergeant First Class Robert Chinneth from Lakewood, Sergeant Gerald Thibodeaux from Puyallup and Specialist Matthew Shaw from Seattle.

The hosts for this year’s event were, as always, the affable Chris Egan, Emmy-winning sports commentator for KING 5 News, and he welcomed the addition of his older brother, Microsoft executive and Washington State Fair Foundation Board member Mike Egan.

The dynamic brother duo had the crowd laughing and groaning at turns, especially during a bit discussing how the hosts were just “a yard away” from the audience, producing a football from behind their podium in reference to Chris Egan’s Super Bowl coverage earlier this year.

The evening was kicked off by some words from Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, who took to the stage to express her admiration for the young women involved in the Daffodil Festival Royal Court each year, as well as for the communities around Pierce County they represent.

Then it was time for the evening’s main event. The 24 Daffodil Princesses had faced their judges earlier this week, with both informal and formal interviews, but their official speeches – oriented around this year’s Festival’s theme, “Shine Your Light With Service” – and impromptu questions, served as the trickiest portion of deciding who would be crowned queen.

For Stadium High School’s Princess Pelumi Ajibade, the ability to give those speeches wasn’t just something to be judged on, but an opportunity to spread a message of servant leadership and community outreach.

“It was amazing, because our friends and family got to hear what we had to say… tell our story, and create more of a relationship within our community. Now the audience knows each of us just a little more.

She drew specific emphasis to how most of the Court’s appearances are structured around the principle of being a team.

“As a team, we are making sure not to bring too much attention to a single person, and that’s good because we are here to serve the community and exemplify the Festival, not ourselves. But yesterday, we each got to be in the spotlight for a minute and shine our light, show what this Festival has done for us and how we have made that theme our life motto,” Ajibade said. 

After each young woman had completed her speech and impromptu question, the full Court took the stage to perform this year’s official song and dance to Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.”

Outgoing Queen Marissa Modestowicz from Emerald Ridge High School graciously gave her thank you speech, which held the waiting princesses in suspense for eight minutes while she acknowledged the many men and women who make the Festival’s success possible.

Victoria Ann Tirado, from Clover Park High School, received the honor of Miss Congeniality, as elected by her peers.

The title of second Runner Up went to Madison Lindahl from Puyallup High School, while first Runner Up was dubbed to be Rachel Price from Eatonville High School.

The title of queen was awarded to Bonney Lake High School’s Princess Ashley Becker. Queen Ashley marks the 79th holder of the title, as well as Bonney Lake’s first-ever queen for the Festival.

Princess Nicole Ripley, from Foss High School, recounted a lot of emotions experienced over the course of the evening.

“It was so fun and so nerve-wracking all at the same time. Honestly, I felt so much closer to the rest of the girls, as we sang and danced to get our nerves out. Overall, it was a fun night, full of adrenaline,” Ripley said.

For Princess Shannon Woods, from Mt. Tahoma High School, the best part came at the end.

“The best part to me was the crowning ceremony… this was a special moment to me, because both [Victoria and Ashley] are a perfect fit for their titles,” Woods said.

Now, she’s got her sights set on the rest of the princesses’ year as a Court. “I’m looking forward to the parade season just for that reason, for being around such a positive group of girls,”  Woods said.