The Daffodil Festival kicked off its 82nd festival year on Friday, Feb. 5 at Puyallup’s Pioneer Park Pavilion with its annual Princess Promenade.
The event serves as the official starting point in the journey of the festival’s 24 princesses, one of whom will be crowned queen at Coronation on March 28, but all of whom will partake in the festival’s rigorous schedule of community service and public appearance opportunities afforded to every Royal Court.
The princesses were each selected from their home high schools throughout Pierce County back in September and October, and have been busy preparing for their official entrance into the community service scene. Princess Promenade marks the first official appearance of the full Festival Court each year.
Princess Emily Inskeep, from Chief Leschi High School, was especially appreciative of this year’s Royal Court.
“I think they’re wonderful, intelligent and beautiful girls. There’s definitely no way to feel left out with them around… It’s one of the most caring environments I’ve been in. I’m so excited for this year with them, especially because I know we’ll be together through it all!”
Kaitlin Ringus, from Fife High School, agreed with the sentiment, explaining how grateful she was to have her new festival compatriots in her life.
“I think we have such a great court this year, probably just like every year, but they are such genuinely good people, and the kind of friends that are hard to find…. I can’t wait to see how close we all get.”
Bedecked with the festival’s signature yellow flowers and with tables topped by miniature lighthouses to fit with this year’s festival theme – “Shine Your Light with Service,” chosen by 2015 Festival President Debbie Barbara – Pioneer Park Pavilion was ready for royalty.
Each of the young ladies was escorted by a Daffodilian – one of those illustrious yellow-jacketed individuals who make the Festival possible – as well as their Educator of the Year, a teacher selected from each represented high school by the princesses as having served as a notable influence in their own education.
The evening of accolades would not be complete without a declaration made on the part of the Pierce County Council, this year by the festival’s executive director Steve James declaring the princesses Official Ambassadors of Pierce County, a title they’ve received annually since 2012.
James also impressed upon the newly minted princesses the importance of the legacy of the Royalty Program, with 1,061 women having held the title before this year’s court.
“We could all go look up the past queens and study the history. We can see plenty of black and white photos of immaculate floats and princesses posing in the fields. This organization has an impressive history and is one of the most regarded and celebrated events in this county.”
He eloquently touched on the festival’s illustrious history, while focusing on how the organization was developing to better serve the interests of its community, as well.
“Eighty-two years ago the plan was to unite this community by celebrating the flower. Today the festival continues to unite this community by humbly serving those that need it and celebrating those that live in it.”
As a physical representation of the enduring success of the princess program, the audience held a hefty amount of past princesses who were more than happy to continue to take part in festival’s festivities.
Even the emcees for the evening were past royalty, with Claire Flemming having served as queen in 2011, and Savannah Fry having been a princess in 2012.
The legacy of the festival and its importance to the Pierce County community is what really struck home for Wilson High School Daffodil’s Princess Madison Gordon.
“Such an honor... these women that have come before us have done amazing things in and around our community. It makes me want to work and push that much harder, knowing that we have such a wonderful legacy to carry on for the future Princesses to come.”
Lincoln High School’s Princess Athena Sok was new to the experience, but that makes her all the more excited to get involved.
“I’m the first generation; I guess you could say… I’m most looking forward to all the parades, and mostly the Daffodil [Grand Floral] Parade, since it’s the first time I will ever witness it. It’s kind of crazy that the first time I get to experience it, I’m actually a part of it.”
She feels the legacy of the festival is even more impressive, considering that she hadn’t really known about it before being crowned Princess.
“Thinking about the history gives me goosebumps. It definitely tells me not to mess up… but I think the legacy is something to be really grateful for. I have so many past princesses to learn and grow from… that’s why I want to incorporate my own passion and individuality during my time as princess.”
Some of the notable civic leaders scattered throughout the crowd included the likes of Puyallup Mayor John Knutsen, as well as Sandy Leek of Puget Sound Energy and Frank Washburn, executive director of the Pierce County Chaplaincy.
Between notable alumnae and civic leaders, Princess Pelumi Ajibade from Stadium High School was floored by the whole experience.
“[Promenade] exceeded my expectations. It was absolutely surreal… everything really came home. I am officially a princess, and with that title, I get to go out and serve. That’s phenomenal.”
For Pelumi, this year’s festival theme means finding new, and better, ways to serve the community.
“You can be an amazing person all your life, but if you keep all your potential to yourself, then your light will stay hidden… no matter your situation, you have to give back – have to serve others – and that’s what’s going to drive me. I can’t just sit back and be nice. I have to do something and let my light shine.”
She’ll get her opportunity soon enough: the princesses are already counting down the days until some of their first opportunities to start serving the community, including this upcoming Saturday, Feb. 14, where the princesses will celebrate Valentine’s Day with the children of the county at various Pierce County libraries, for the popular “READ with a Princess” program.
For Princess Shannon Woods from Mt. Tahoma High School, it’ll be a perfect way to kick off the experiences of the Festival year.
“I’m most excited to interact with children this upcoming Festival year, because I still remember the time when a princess came up to me and held a conversation about what my dreams were and what I wanted to accomplish with my life… It was a wonderful experience from my childhood.”
Same for Princess Nicole Ripley from Henry Foss High School: in her eyes, the festival is all about the kids. That’s why she’s most looking forward to the library readings with the Pierce County Library system, and Boys and Girls Club events.
“I really want to interact with the kids, and make them feel as important as I did [at Promenade]. I love children… of course, I look forward to the more ‘adultish’ events, as well. But they don’t quite get the same sparkle in their eyes as children do.”
The 2015 Daffodil Festival Queen will be selected and crowned at the Queen’s Coronation ceremony on Friday, March 28, at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma. Learn more at www.thedaffodilfestival.org.