The Rose Festival, for the second consecutive year, will focus on some in-person activities and virtual events because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seemingly long ago, huge crowds gathered for Waterfront Park activities, the parades and more.
As much as people can get used to things being unusual, the Rose Festival has gotten used to things being unusual, including the newly-named princesses of the Rose Festival Court. Fifteen young women have been selected for the court, and there'll be a Queen's Coronation June 18 at the International Rose Test Garden at Washington Park. Long ago (as in 2019 and before), the queen would be crowned at Veterans Memorial Coliseum and then paraded through the city in the Grand Floral Parade.
Now, it's a smaller gathering for the Queen's Coronation in the age of COVID-19 and government restrictions, and the list of activities and appearances has also been pared down.
But according to Jessica Metteer, Rose Festival Court special events coordinator, the enthusiasm is still strong.
"I'm actually surprised by the level of enthusiasm we've been greeted with," she said. "It's an amazing program, and we're proud of it, but to see how enthused students are has been heartwarming.
"When they've been asked what they look forward to (in candidate interviews), they say the community outreach and volunteering … and they're very excited to connect with the other 14 members of court. They are 15 women who will know each other for the rest of their lives. They haven't been in school the last year, and that's an opportunity for them to connect with their peers."
Almost all of the high schools made their announcements on the Rose Festival YouTube channel. Cleveland had an in-person selection outside, with people across the street watching. David Douglas announced its princess in the performing arts center with some people in attendance. Central Catholic had a hybrid crowning ceremony, with students watching via livestream and finalists in attendance with the school mascot.
For decades, a highlight for participating schools has been to gather students, princess candidates and staff in a large area for the ceremony, which would be videotaped and shown on local television. Anticipation, surprise, cheers — exciting times for the young people.
Now, it's all about logging on to YouTube.
"They've adapted so quickly and almost seamlessly," Metteer said. "Last year before the pandemic caused restrictions, we had normal judging. There were 100 young women interviewed in a single day. This year, they did that virtually, and everyone who took part — we had over 80 interviewed — was able to move around the platform and be on Zoom and be comfortable. All the Zoom announcements went well, making sure students have access to see them. They've become comfortable and simple."
The 2021 Rose Festival Court is:
Aundrea Brazile, St. Mary's Academy, senior
Eliyana Camara, Franklin, senior
Sophia Chin, Benson, senior
Madison "Madi" Cooper, Central Catholic, senior
Jennifer Dinh, David Douglas, senior
Faith Isibor, McDaniel, junior
Zemzem Hussen, Roosevelt, senior
Jiwon "Jina" Lim, Lincoln, senior
Lucy "Rena" Marthaler, Cleveland, junior
Natalie Mathers, Parkrose senior
Catalina "Cata" Monteiro, Wells, senior
Jillian North, Metro East/Lakeridge, senior
Kayla Pierce, Jefferson, senior
Lilianna "Lili" Rosebrook, Metro West/Valley Catholic, senior
Beatriz Santiago Perez, Grant, senior
Anya Anand of Lincoln was crowned the 2020 queen at a ceremony at Washington Park. She wasn't able to do the queen's complete appearance schedule because of the pandemic. But Rose Festival officials hope the princesses and the new queen will be able to make more appearances.
The 2020 court made appearances during a two-week "travel" schedule, culminating in the Queen's Coronation. They traveled on an 80-person bus, which allowed for social distancing, and visited some assisted living facilities.
"We learned so many lessons last year that we're able to use this year," Metteer said. "Most of them are seniors, and they've already missed out on some really traditional experiences past the last two years of their high school career.
"We're doing what we're calling Virtual Travel before the actual travel. They're visiting with elected officials via Zoom, because we can't do that in person. We're still planning to have about two weeks (in) mid-June of actual travel to places where they're able to receive guests and have space. Places we missed are very eager to have us back."
One highlight is Rose Festival Honors, a women's empowerment event on May 6, which includes a keynote address by a former Rose Festival queen, Alisha Moreland-Capuia (1998), who is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School.
"She's a very exceptional woman, and we're blessed to have that connection with her," Metteer said.
For more on the Rose Festival Court and its schedule, see rosefestival.org. All the princess announcements are still available to watch on the Rose Festival YouTube channel.
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