A week full of sunshine and warm spring weather preceded the 80th annual Daffodil Festival Coronation on April 3 at the Pantages Theater in Downtown Tacoma. Queen’s Coronation is an annual celebration of the young women in the current year’s Daffodil Festival Royal Court, where the Queen is chosen to serve as figurehead of the Festival and the Royal Court for the remainder of the Festival year.
Princess Shayla Chandler, from Fife High School, couldn’t contain her enthusiasm for the night’s events to get underway. “We’re all ready, we’re all excited!”
For Princess Tiauna Bill, from Chief Leschi High School, Coronation was just more evidence in itself of all the work they have done since being crowned. “Coronation means that one of us 23 amazing Princesses will become the Queen, and that Queen will be a solid representation of our servant hearts and the work that we do,” she said.
Princess Tiauna also emphasized that these kinds of relationships and experiences wouldn’t be possible without the support of the communities they serve. “The experiences that have led up to the Queen’s selection are filled with not only moments that we’ve impacted Pierce County, but the moments that Pierce County has opened our eyes, and allowed us to have experiences that we wouldn’t have had, if we weren’t on the Royal Court.”
This is the second year this prestigious event has taken place at the Pantages Theater, just a stone’s throw away from the Tacoma Parade route. This grand venue and historical Tacoma landmark is just another demarcation of the significant ties the Daffodil Festival has to the Pierce County community, with many notable community and civic leaders in attendance.
Many Daffodilians, the supporters and members of the Daffodil Festival, were seated in the audience and were easily identified by their yellow jackets. A large number of Royalty alumnae were present as well seated in a cheering section right next to where this year’s Royalty sat in the brief time they didn’t spend on stage.
However, for Princess Lillie Williams, from Stadium High School, the most important people in the audience weren’t any of those noted and notable groups in attendance. “I think I am most excited to see my family at Coronation,” she said, “because they will see the growth that I have gained from Daffodil.”
“They see me every day, and life goes on, but for them to see me in a new light, and how much I have developed as an individual, is something I’m really excited to show them!”
Coronation’s host of the past several years, KING 5 News’ Chris Egan, was not able to attend this year due to his coverage of the Husky Women’s Basketball game; however, Jamie Gregory, Major Gifts Officer for the Wesley Home Foundation, was able to step in, alongside past Daffodil Princess and President of Puyallup Sumner Chamber of Commerce Shelly Schlumpf, to fill the emcee positions.
Speeches given by the Princesses, each no longer than one minute in length, were oriented around this year’s Festival theme, of “Fun in the Sun,” chosen by Festival President Debbie Wood.
Many discussed charitable projects they had been a part of – ranging from summer camp counselors, to mission trips – and reflected on how warmth can be spread with a smile and service, rather than just the Spring weather.
For Princess Jessica, from Henry Foss High School, her speech was so important to her that she decided to change it. “I wanted it to come straight from the heart of who I am as a Princess,” she said, “I wanted it to be about what I love and what I’ve grown to love, being a part of Daffodil.”
Each Princess then answered the impromptu question, of how her understanding of “servant leadership” has developed through working with the Daffodil Festival.
Later on, the Princesses took the stage to perform this year’s song and dance, to the tune of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and “Good Day Sunshine.”
Longtime Coronation mainstay, pianist Kerry Yanasak played through the intervals of the event, adding his lighthearted musical accompaniment to the evening’s proceedings.
Past Queen Ashley Becker took the stage to give her final goodbyes to her reign as Queen, as well as thank the many Daffodilians in attendance for the part they played in her Daffodil journey.
The title of Miss Congeniality, selected by the women of the 2016 Royal Court, was delivered to Samaria Roberts, from Eatonville High School. This title is accompanied by a $1,000 scholarship, sponsored by the Tacoma Yacht Club shipmates.
In a break from tradition, the titles of Second Runner-Up and First Runner-Up were not announced this year. This was a deliberate decision, made by the Princesses of the 2016 Royal Court, as a show of solidarity.
Many Princesses echoed the sentiment, of the fact that they are Princesses first and foremost, and that becoming Queen – or any Runner-Up, for that matter – wouldn’t alter that fact.
Princess Jessica emphasized that choosing a Queen wouldn’t change anything about the ways these young ladies served their community. “We are all still Princesses, and we will serve the way we did before a Queen, and we will serve the way we did after a Queen is chosen.”
Princess Lillie also had nothing but good things to say about her fellow Princesses, and of the Festival itself. “Each one of these individuals have given me something important. They’ve given me a second family.”
She also emphasized the part the Princesses play in the overall leadership experiences of their Court. “Without the support of these people I couldn’t have grown this much! They’ve reminded me of the kindness that a group of people can give, and I appreciate all of the advice and care that they share with me.”
By the end of the evening, Princess Emily Oliver, from Spanaway Lake High School, was officially proclaimed to be Queen of the Festival for the remainder of the 2016 Festival year.
Each Princess receives a $2,000 scholarship, thanks to the Daffodil Foundation, while the Queen receives a $5,000 scholarship, courtesy of the Washington State Fair Foundation.
Hopefully this sunny weather will stick around until next Saturday, April 9, at which point the Daffodil Festival Grand Floral Parade will be winding its way through the four Pierce County cities of Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, and Orting, for its 83rd annual year.
For Princess Shayla, the Grand Floral Parade is a representation of the Festival’s involvement. “I’m definitely excited for the Parade! We’ve been doing a lot out in the community, a lot of behind-the-scenes work, so I’m really excited to take all of that, and make it big, bringing the whole community together.”
Additionally, it would make for perfect weather to run in the Daffodil 5K Challenge, a series of 5Ks run before each of the Parade routes, sponsored by Nike and South Sound Running.
Can’t be there on Parade Day to take in all that yellow firsthand? Not to worry! KING 5 is once again be serving as the Daffodil Festival’s official broadcasting sponsor, and will be filming the Parade as it winds through Puyallup. You can catch it on KONG 6/16 and Northwest Cable News (NWCN) on Saturday, April 9 at 8 p.m.