Excitable Daffodil royalty fuels annual Grand Floral Parade

Staff writerApril 5, 2014 

The energy on the Daffodil Festival royalty bus Saturday could have fueled all 34 floats in the 81st annual Grand Floral Parade.

The 24 princesses, Daffodil Queen Marissa Modestowicz and former members of the royal court were running on little sleep, gummy bears and a lot of excitement.

Endless enthusiasm electrified the queen’s float, which was still a crowd favorite despite some mechanical problems that stalled the float on and off throughout the day.

The News Tribune could barely keep up with the princesses and the chaperones as the girls raced from Tacoma to Puyallup, then on to Sumner and Orting.

“We were so excited we couldn’t sleep,” said princess Kaetlynn Brown of Sumner High School.

The royalty started primping in their downtown Tacoma hotel rooms by 6 a.m., hours after a private party the night before that included board games, dancing and karaoke.

Brown said the late night didn’t throw them off.

“It was easy waking up, even though it shouldn’t have been,” she said, laughing.

Modestowicz, from Emerald Ridge High School, said the party eased some of the pressure before parade day.

“We wouldn’t have gotten a lot of sleep back in the hotel anyways,” she said.

About half the princesses gathered early near the starting line in Tacoma for a meet-and-greet reception with other festival royalty from around the state, including Capital Lakefair Queen Madison Murphy. Some wore velvet hooded capes, others fur coats, but they were outnumbered by the yellow-clad local royals.

“You’re so lucky that so many people get to be in your court,” Murphy said to a group of princesses. The rest of the royal court came to the reception late, after sending off runners in the first leg of the festival’s inaugural 5K Challenge.

Then, the princesses started their own race.

In Tacoma, the queen’s float broke down, delaying their debut and putting them behind schedule. But the dancing bystanders were not fazed by the red jeep towing the float.

The Compton family, who recently moved to DuPont from Atlanta, stood on the sidewalk in Tacoma waiting to see their first parade. Rain threatened to fall, but 11-year-old Kenzy Compton wasn’t afraid to get wet.

“I’ve gotten used to it,” she said.

Kenzy’s 3-year-old sister, Falon, couldn’t contain her anticipation when she learned about the princesses who “look like Belle” from the popular Disney flick “Beauty and the Beast.” She danced and waved with excitement as they floated by.

New entries in the parade included Stryker soldiers and vehicles from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and a “VIP car” carrying Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Traditional favorites showed up, including the Astoria Clowns and the Seafair Pirates.

At the end of the Tacoma route, faint raindrops caused minor princess problems. Modestowicz’s gift bag carrying makeup and other favors ripped, breaking her eyelash curler; another princess feared her curls wouldn’t last.

Princess Nina Thach of Mount Tahoma High School wasn’t concerned.

“No worries,” she said as she hopped on the bus to Puyallup. “Everything is still fun.”

The bus ride to Puyallup bustled; princesses took selfies, passed around a value-size bag of gummy bears and sang together.

At their private lunch spot — Immanuel Lutheran Church, which has served the royal court on parade day since the 1980s — the girls refueled with sandwiches and salads. They grabbed dessert to go, making up for lost time from the stalled float.

Another bus ride, a head count and gold-pin checks preceded the Puyallup parade. The girls kept their energy high; one chaperone had to chase down the float at the end of the route to make sure it would stop in time to hop on the bus to Sumner.

Back on the bus again, some princesses cheered with even more energy while others hoped for a quick nap. Extra downtime in Sumner perked the girls up more.

They danced and waved for hundreds more people lining Main Street.

Tommy Walker said he loves seeing the princesses. The Sumner resident has missed only a few parades in the past 24 years.

“I like to be with the crowd,” he said.

On the way to Orting, the royalty bus gradually grew quiet as the rain started pouring and the gummy bears ran low. “I was tired in the second parade,” said Princess Stephanie Jackson-Buena of Chief Leschi High. “But you can’t be tired.”

For their traditional finale after wrapping up in Orting, the princesses showered the crowd, their chaperones and festival executive director Steve James with daffodils from the float.

They reunited with proud parents and assessed the water damage to their dresses from the late rainfall. If Modestowicz was tired, it didn’t show.

“Throwing the daffodils actually woke me up,” she said. “But I’m ready for a hot shower.”

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682; kari.plog@thenewstribune.com

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