Even a little rain outside couldn’t dampen the spirits of the crowd gathered within the Puyallup Park Pavilion Friday night, Feb. 5, celebrating the 51st Annual Daffodil Festival Princess Promenade.
Princess Promenade is an annual Festival event, recognizing the 23 members of the Royal Court who have been selected by their respective high schools as Daffodil Princesses for this year.
Promenade marks the first full appearance of the Festival’s Royal Court for the year, serving as both the grand reveal of those iconic yellow dresses, and the first time each Princess is outfitted with her sash, tiara, and golden daffodil pin.
Princess Shayla Chandler, from Fife High School, proclaimed Promenade to be one of the most special nights of her life. “It’s not often that one gets celebrated like that,” she said. “It felt surreal to know that these dresses and crowns are more than just an outfit. They are our special way to get connected to our community.”
For Princess Tiauna Bill, from Chief Leschi High School, Promenade was “like a dream come true.”
“It was such a wonderful and surreal night for all of us! It was our first night in our big yellow dresses, it was our first time doing our routine, and our tiaras, sashes, golden daffodils, and gloves made it feel so real.”
Each Princess was also tapped in a ceremony conducted by this year’s Festival President Debbie Wood, and all of them promised to hold forth the ideals of their community and the Festival.
Wood has been with the Festival since her own daughter, Michelle, was selected as 2007 Sumner High School Daffodil Princess and then crowned Queen. Debbie went on to serve as a chaperone, board member, treasurer of the Festival and now as Festival president for this year.
The theme Wood chose for the 83rd year – “Fun in the Sun” – may have clashed with the weather outside, but was perfect for the golden yellow and sunny outlook the Daffodil Festival is known for throughout Pierce County and beyond. The Daffodil Festival Princesses were once again proclaimed this year by the Pierce County Council as Official Ambassadors of Pierce County.
This is the fourth year this honor has been bestowed on the Royal Court to recognize the outreach the Daffodil Princesses perform in both the extensive community service they participate in, as well as their efforts in traveling to parades outside of Pierce County and other Pacific Northwest festivals, throughout the summer.
When it comes to what the official titles of Princess and Ambassador mean to her, Princess Tiauna recognizes the history behind the Festival. “To me, it’s living up to our commitments. It’s following in the footsteps of the Princesses that came before us, and always doing our best to improve as individuals to better serve Pierce County.”
There to read the official proclamation was Pierce County Councilmember Rick Talbert. Other prominent local figures in attendance included Puyallup Mayor John Hopkins and Councilmember Julie Door. Tacoma Yacht Club shipmates were also present, as well as members of the Washington State Fair Foundation and Daffodil Festival Scholarship Foundation.
Representatives from Festival partner Lexus of Tacoma at Fife helped recognize the Daffodil Festival Educators of the Year. Chosen by the Princesses for their impact in their academic lives, these specially selected teachers and advisors from across Pierce County schools will ride in Mustangs in the Grand Floral Parade, for the 12th year of the program.
Princess Lindsey McClellan, from Mt. Tahoma High School, chose her Educator of the Year, Mr. Ronnie Gordon, because of his commitment to his students. “Although he is an English teacher and ASB Advisor,” she says, “the lessons he teaches go far beyond literature and leadership. He is always lending a helping hand.”
For Princess Shayla, the choice was an obvious one, as well. “I chose my educator because he is just that,” she says, “A true educator… Mr. Meyer goes above and beyond teaching, and is there for every single one of his students.”
“No matter what is going on in his or our life, he welcomes us into his classroom and goes the extra mile if need be.”
Also present in support of the Festival was a sea of yellow jackets signifying the presence of the Daffodilians, while a crowd of Princess alumnae was also seated together on the right side of the pavilion.
For Princess Jessica Nguyen, from Henry Foss High School, this kind of an audience made Promenade feel “like graduation.”
“I felt as though Promenade was showing how well our families and our Daffodil Family have taken care of us, and gotten us to this point.”
For Stadium High School Daffodil Princess Lillie Williams – whose older sister, Sophie, was a Princess in 2011 – seeing the alumnae in the audience was just another hallmark of its legacy. “I felt supported and truly cared for when I saw the alumnae,” she said. “There must be something about the Festival that keeps this many people in it… a bond is created that keeps everyone together.”
However, at the end of the day Promenade is all about the Princesses. Not only did the event serve as the first public appearance of the fully assembled Royal Court, but the first occasion for a formal Princess appearance – complete with yellow dresses – occurred the following day, as they began their popular “READ with a Princess program,” partnered with Pierce County Libraries.
Princess Chelsea Lopez, from Lincoln High School, had only the best things to say about the women with whom she shares a title. “I know that the women I stand beside are all very intelligent, caring, and dedicated to serving our community.”
When it comes to the legacy accompanying that title, Princess Chelsea promises it is an honor she does not take lightly. “I know people look up to us Princesses, and hold high expectations of what we will do. I know I have to honor and respect that.”
These high school seniors will have a busy spring, making appearances and serving throughout the community in conjunction with local organizations from Pierce County Libraries, to Boys and Girls Clubs, to United Way, and many more.
When it comes to what Princess Lillie is most looking forward to in her reign with the Festival, confidence is key. “Confidence has always been a struggle for me, but when I put on that yellow dress, my anxieties were swept away.”
“Making new connections and helping to make a difference, I think, will build my confidence throughout this whole year, and that is all thanks to this Festival.”
The Daffodil Festival Queen’s Coronation will be taking place on April 3 at the Pantages Theater in downtown Tacoma. This annual event recognizes the commitment of the entire Court to their community, and crowns one of the Princesses as Queen for the remainder of the Festival year.
The 83rd Annual Grand Floral Parade will take place the following weekend, on April 9, in its annual procession down the streets of Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, and Orting, filled with bands, floats, music, and more.
Looking to get involved in the big day, but don’t have a float to spare? Don’t despair! The Daffodil Festival 5K Challenge is looking for both runners and volunteers. The Challenge is to complete all four races, in all four parade cities, in just one day. You can compete in the races individually, or go for the full challenge, and registration is already open.
To learn more, visit www.thedaffodilfestival.org.