This year marks a significant time in the history of the Pierce County Daffodil Festival as the nonprofit organization celebrates 80 years of providing young women opportunities to serve the community.
Twenty-four seniors from high schools across the county were proclaimed princesses of the 2013 Royal Daffodil Court on Saturday at Clover Park Technical College’s Sharon McGavick Conference Center. The annual Princess Promenade sets the stage for the next 10 months of the festival, which will culminate in the Daffodil Festival Parade on April 13.
“I enjoy being able to help these young girls develop character, watching them volunteer and blossom into young mentors and leaders,” said Brad Stevens, president of the 2013 Daffodil Festival. “It’s very heartwarming to watch that.”
Stevens’ wife Sherry was a Daffodil Princess from Lincoln High School in Tacoma in 1978. When Stevens’ daughter, Nicole, Sherry’s stepdaughter, was proclaimed a princess from Tacoma’s Wilson High School in 2003, it ignited a passion for Brad and Sherry to be involved in the organization again.
Brad Stevens previously served as president in 2009. Both times, Sherry Stevens has been dubbed “First Lady.”
Sherry Stevens, then Sherry Ahola, remembered her part as a princess as a whirlwind experience.
“I remember feeling nervous at first, but they made us feel like part of the family,” Sherry Stevens said. “Once you’re a princess, you’re always a princess.”
Since the start of the Daffodil Festival in 1934, there have been 1,012 princesses. The newly proclaimed join the ranks and become part of the living history.
During the next 10 months, the high school seniors will visit more than 220 events and reach out to the community as mentors, teachers and volunteers. Included will be times set aside to read to elementary school children at each of the Pierce County Library System’s locations.
Steve James, the executive director of the Daffodil Festival, said last year’s princesses read more than 380 books to 3,650 school-age students.
Marissa Gregg, a senior at Sumner High School, will have an opportunity to make an impact on student learning and achievement as one of this year’s princesses.
“I’m excited for the encounters with children in the community, because I want to be a teacher,” she said.
Gregg has been accepted to attend the University of Washington-Tacoma campus next fall, and she plans to work toward an elementary education degree. She wants to teach fourth grade.
Brianne Peticone, a senior at Puyallup High School, has a passion the outdoors.
“I really enjoy teaching the children and trying to take them away from all the technology and exposing them to the world outside,” she said.
Her top choice for college is the University of Washington. She wants to major in English and literature.
McKenna Erhardt, a senior at Rogers High in Puyallup, said she was motivated by Jordan Zuniga, a 2012 princess from Rogers.
“She was a really good role model,” Erhardt said. “It was the way she presented herself and her service to other people.”
Erhardt said her passion is to serve others.
“I try to impact someone’s life every day,” she said. “I strive to make every encounter important.”
Cierra McMahon, a senior at Emerald Ridge High in Puyallup, said she was inspired by her mother, Jackie, who was a Daffodil Princess from Orting High School.
McMahon said she’s passionate about competitive air rifle and small-bore shooting. She competed in the Junior Olympics and plans to try out for the 2016 Summer Olympics. She aspires to major in either business or marine sciences, and her long-term goal is to become a captain of a marine research vessel.
“I’ve been obsessed with the sea and marine life for as long as I can remember,” McMahon said. “I hope this opportunity will open a lot of doors for me.”Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.