West Linn High School junior shares Rose Festival experience, encourages others to apply next year

TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE  - Caitlin McCabe values her time on the Rose Festival court and encourages others to apply next year. If someone told West Linn High School junior Caitlin McCabe that she would have to perform the duties of a princess on the Portland Rose Festival 2018 Court for the rest of her life, she'd gladly accept.

McCabe represented the Metro East region on the court, along with 13 other princesses from Portland area schools. Beginning May 2, the court spent five weeks volunteering, doing community outreach, networking and exploring activities around Portland. Each princess also received a $3,500 scholarship for any accredited college, university or trade program and one-on-one mentoring from female executives — which McCabe valued for advice about college. Although McCabe was not crowned queen the day of the June 9 Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade, she said getting to know her fellow princesses and performing community service tasks had a major impact on her life.

"We all grew a lot more confident; we all grew a lot more in our public speaking skills and I feel like that's a really fantastic part of this program," McCabe said.

McCabe and the other princesses spent five or six days a week, sometimes from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., volunteering at places like The Children's Book Bank and the Union Gospel Mission, visiting retirement homes and exploring the Japanese Gardens and the Oregon Zoo.

"Some days you'd prefer to go home and go to sleep but you learned a lot from it and you grew a lot," said McCabe, adding that on her days off she couldn't wait to get involved again. "I know everyone on the court changed so much from the five weeks we were traveling together."

While McCabe and the other princesses were out of school doing this time, she said it wasn't too difficult to make. McCabe was in five AP classes and got excused for testing. The hardest part for McCabe was not saying goodbye to her senior friends during the final days of class.

McCabe said her most interesting community outreach stories stemmed from the people she met, especially at retirement homes. She remembers participating in a singalong with residents.

"Some of the songs we didn't know as well, so some of us would mumble along the words and try to get through it," she said. "It was a lot of fun."

The biggest eye-opener for McCabe was interacting with the other princesses and learning about life in Portland versus life in the suburbs.

"A lot of the girls would have to take on two to three jobs to support their families and for myself, (that's) never had to be an issue in my family," McCabe said. "We live on a farm so our job was working on the farm when we had work to do and going to school. There were some girls who would take on these jobs or take on positions, taking care of younger siblings or things like that, and that really changed my outlook on life."

She said the diversity of the court was also very eye-opening.

"Growing up in West Linn where it's not a very diverse community, that was a very different experience from what I was used to but I learned a lot from these girls: how they grew up, their own culture," said McCabe, adding that the entire court became close friends, "sisters," as they called it. "They're all such amazing people."

During her time volunteering, McCabe — who is president of a community service club at school — was introduced to several service programs that she wants to get herself and others more involved with next year.

Not only does McCabe appreciate volunteering herself, she was thankful for all the volunteer work that made the Rose Festival possible. She also acknowledged Abby's Closet for providing formal gowns free of charge to girl's who weren't able to afford the dresses.

Next year, McCabe wants to encourage others to apply to be on the court.

"Being able to share some of my experiences with others in West Linn, I feel like it's a very small community," McCabe said. "You don't really leave it very much or learn about other areas. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will change you when you're through with it and I don't regret a single second I spent there."

West Linn Tidings reporter Clara Howell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-636-1281.

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