First published in the Oct. 7 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
After a yearlong pandemic hiatus, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses returned to an iconic tradition to announce the seven members of the 2022 Royal Court last week.
Amid much fanfare from a masked crowd, Stephen Perry, chair of the Tournament’s Queen and Court Committee, welcomed parents and supporters as he called the 29 court finalists to the stage. Noting “what a two years it has been,” Perry gave a nod to the slew of previous cancellations, including those of the 2021 Royal Court, local Rose Bowl Game and Rose Parade, that were caused by the coronavirus and resulting public health measures.
“They will not be the first Royal Court to deal and navigate through interesting times in our history, and they won’t be the last,” he said of the 2022 group. “But having met them, I know they will meet each and every challenge with grace and positive thinking to make their world a better place.”
Tournament President Bob Miller took center stage to reveal the lucky seven princesses, one of whom will be crowned Rose Queen later this month.
They are Jeannine Briggs, John Marshall Fundamental High School; Abigail Griffith, Pasadena High School; Nadia Chung, La Cañada High School; Jaeda Walden, LCHS; Swetha Somasundaram, Arcadia High School; Ava Feldman, South Pasadena High School; and McKenzie Street, Flintridge Sacred Heart.
Miller explained the challenge of choosing among so many deserving girls this year, especially since the Tournament extended the applications to those who already graduated from high school.
In line with the Rose Parade theme “Dream, Believe, Achieve,” the court stands for “celebrating the determination of those who traveled the path from dream to reality. Our ambitions are limited only by expectations we impose on ourselves,” Miller said.
The whoops and hollers of local fan groups echoed over the Tournament lawn as the beaming princesses posed with brimming bouquets.
John Marshall’s Briggs expressed surprise at being chosen for the court, especially as her name was the last to be called. The senior is president of her school’s Broadcasting Club and Storytellers Club, vice president of the Black Student Union and leader of a host of other activities, including the Associated Student Body class of 2022. With interests in music, acting, writing, diplomacy and women’s rights advocacy, Briggs ultimately hopes to attend law school and become a broadcast journalist.
“I feel so incredibly overwhelmed and excited, I can’t overstate how surprised I am,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from meeting so many wonderful people during this process and have felt at peace throughout the whole thing. It just feels good to be back and see everybody.”
Griffith of Pasadena High also attested to the joy of returning to public life after more than a year spent largely at home during the pandemic.
“I think I’m in a bit of denial and catching up emotionally to the fact that I’m actually here now and doing this — it’s incredible,” said Griffith, adding how much she has enjoyed the process. “Although this is technically a competition, it really is just a showcase of how amazing the women of Pasadena are. All the girls I got to talk to and meet, that was a really eye-opening experience in and of itself for me.”
Griffith is a varsity member of the PHS Orchesis Dance Team, a student worship leader at Lake Avenue Church Pasadena, student intern at the Gamble House Pasadena and cashier at Brick and Flour, among other activities. She plans to study architecture and become a licensed architect.
The other Pasadena resident, Flintridge Sacred Heart senior Street, is a member of her school’s Tech Team, Girls Who Code Club and Academic Decathlon, and is a leader on the Campus Ministry Team and founder of the Fashion Club. Ultimately, she would like to study business or computer science and teach children in underrepresented and underexposed communities.
“I am feeling grateful and gracious right now,” Street said amid the excited chatter of those around her. “I’ve always wanted to try out for this, ever since I was a little girl. It’s a great opportunity and I’m excited to get to know all of my fellow court members. FSHA is all about sisterhood and it feels similarly here, like we’re forming a sisterhood with all the court members.”
Members of the 2022 Royal Court will serve as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community and the Greater Los Angeles area and will each receive a $7,500 scholarship.
Applicants from 24 Pasadena-area schools participated in the interview process, and volunteer members of the Queen and Court Committee selected the Royal Court based on several criteria, including public speaking ability, academic achievement, youth leadership, and community and school involvement.
Court members experience a list of benefits, becoming part of an organization dedicated to hands-on volunteerism, discovering opportunities to connect with and give back to the local community, developing public speaking skills and growing their self-confidence.
The 2022 group will ride down Colorado Boulevard on the Royal Court float in the 133rd Rose Parade and attend the 108th Rose Bowl Game, both on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022.
The announcement and coronation of the 103rd Rose Queen and presentation of the 2022 Royal Court will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 26, on the front lawn of the Tournament House.