First published in the Oct. 7 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
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 this week, including two La Cañada Flintridge princesses.
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 girls. “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 Nadia Chung and Jaeda Walden of La Cañada High School; Jeannine Briggs, John Marshall Fundamental High School; Abigail Griffith, Pasadena High School; 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.
LCHS senior Chung is the president of multiple groups, including the Mock Trial Team, Mini Mission and Concert Choir. She is also a High School Insider for the Los Angeles Times.
Her journey to becoming a Royal Court princess was filled with reflection.
“Going into this process meant that I had to find my confidence and become more sure of myself and know what I stand for and believe in,” said Chung, who met the 2009 Rose Court while she was in preschool, an event that left her with lasting impression.
Chung said she was in shock when she learned she had become a finalist for the court and had to double-check to see if the announcement was true.
“I was shaking and so excited,” she said. “I think it even took me a moment to realize it was me, because this experience is just so surreal. You always hope that it would happen to you, but you never really think it’s going to happen. It’s a dream come true.”
Chung’s mother, Sonia Chang, described her daughter’s involvement within the community as the “princess package.”
“I’m so proud,” Chang said. “I know that she worked so hard in areas beyond the court, so this is just a great culmination of all of those arenas.”
Although Chung said any of the princesses would make a perfect Rose Queen, her hope — if she is given the job — would be to unite the court through her positive energy and enthusiasm.
Fellow Royal Court princess and LCHS senior Walden is a member of the Happiness Club, Ocean Buddies Club, Key Club, the varsity girls’ volleyball team and Operation Smile.
When she was named to the Rose Court, Walden remembers all the eyes on her in that special moment.
“It was so crazy, because every one of these girls is amazing, so it really could have been any of us,” she said.
To Walden, being Rose Queen is an opportunity to uplift the next generation of Royal Court members.
“I care a lot about other people and want to inspire others, especially future girls who want to try out for the court,” Walden said. “I think it’s important for young women growing up to know that they have a chance to be a representative of this community and be a role model for others.”
Flintridge Sacred Heart senior Street, a Pasadena resident, said, “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 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 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.