Spring has returned to the Pacific Northwest once again, and has brought with it not only sunny yellow daffodils in local gardens, but also the Daffodil Festival Princesses, making appearances out and about around Pierce County. You might not know it, but one of the easiest places to spot a Daffodil Princess this season might actually be at your local library!
The partnership between the Daffodil Festival and Pierce County libraries has been a longstanding tradition, one beloved by not only the fleet of royals, but their youngest fans as well. It serves as yet another highlight of the Festival’s focus on community and education, much like their other partnerships with groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pierce County.
It also serves as a reminder to their commitment to the academic aptitude, necessary to becoming a Daffodil Princess. Each young woman is expected to maintain a GPA of at least 3.2 or higher. As each Princess is chosen by and represents an area high school, this emphasis on education is a token reminder of the Festival’s Royalty program roots.
These library visits aren’t just a fun opportunity to hear a new story, and maybe do a little reading yourself, but a unique opportunity to interact with these notable young role models of Pierce County. Families are welcome to take pictures, listen to a new or familiar read, and watch how much children open up once they see those bright tiaras, and even brighter smiles.
Princess Micaela Nomakchteinsky, from Puyallup High School, sees reading, like the library visits, as something that helps form a community. “Reading is so important in my life, because it acts as a connector… Not only does it connect your mind to another world, but it makes connections in your real life, as well.”
It also made a very real impact on her title. “Reading has been a significant factor to bringing me where I am today: a Daffodil Princess, where I get the opportunity to inspire kids, just by reading a book, and supporting my community.”
Princess Allie Brooks, from Lincoln High School, sees such community events as a means of preserving the Festival’s legacy. “Spending time and building relationships with the future generations, encourages them to dream big, and help understand the concept of giving back to the community.”
Of course, she’s happy to do it, too. “I truly love seeing the joy that is brought to their faces with just a simple ‘Hello!’ from one of 23 princesses. It makes my day to know that just by a greeting, it impacts them in a big way.”
While she loves interacting with children, for Princess Brianna Olson, of Fife High School, the importance of their activity itself is in the forefront of her mind. “As a person with dyslexia, I find reading so important!” she explains. “It helps you grow and expands your mind. It takes you to places you never thought you could go.”
In her eyes, the events are important to the Festival, because it “engages children and gets them to their libraries. It makes them excited to learn.”
And she’s definitely not complaining, as meeting these young fans is one of her favorite parts of these library events. “The thing I love most about interacting with the kids is seeing them light up and be so engaged. I love the way they see life, and how fun it can be. Sometimes we get so caught up in life, that we forget the fun things, and I think children bring that back to us.”
Princess Ashley Smith, from Wilson High School, loves building a reading-positive connection with children, as well. “These visits are important to the Festival, because it’s a way for us to connect with the younger kids… when we get the opportunity to work one on one with children, we’re creating positive memories that will stay with them.”
“I hope that the tiny ones are able to appreciate the joy that reading can bring, and the places it can lead you.”
Ever wonder what kind of books a Princess likes to read? These community leaders can quickly build you a list full of some of their favorites.
Princess Angelina Dillon, from Chief Leschi High School, reaches for a few old classics. “My favorite books as a kid were ‘Go, Dog, Go’ [by Dr. Seuss] and ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ [by Shel Silverstein].”
Of Princess Allie’s favorite pick for Princess reading time, there is no doubt. “[Antoinette Portis’] ‘Princess Super Kitty!’”
Princess Micaela enjoys reading books like “Nobody Likes a Goblin,” by Ben Hatke. “It emphasizes the power of friendship and sticking to your goals, even when others try to bring you down… the book is filled with life lessons that are crucial for young children to learn, and it is a great book to read.”
It’s not just the books themselves that are important, too: when it comes to actually getting the children they visit to pay attention to the books they’re reading, they try to pull out all the stops.
That’s why Princess Rachel Schmit, from Foss High School, enjoys reading books like “Pinkalicious,” by Victoria Kann. “Make sure you use your voice,” she advises. “Often while reading a book, we fall into a monotone, but’s it’s much more exciting if you give life to the pages.”
For her, reading is important because of this sense of fantasy and excitement. “It’s my way to escape into a beautiful new world of someone else’s imagination.”
For Princess Leanna Esquivel, from Mt. Tahoma High School, the key to captivating your reading audience is about making the book more of an experience. “When I read to kids, I tend to find books with more than one character. That way, I can characterize my voice to different personalities I make up along the way.”
Her other tip? Find the time to rhyme! “Another way I help kids stay engaged is by choosing books with rhyme schemes, or books with repetitive verses, such as Dr. Seuss books… the kids can foreshadow what words follow.”
“It’s honestly all in the control of the reader,” Princess Leanna says. “If the reader can make the story sound like an adventure, the kids will love the journey; otherwise, they’ll become disengaged, and no one wants that.”
Some of Princess Ashley’s tricks for holding children’s attention when reading is to get on their level, and just get excited. “To get the kids interested in what you’re reading, you have to be interested in what you’re reading too, and actively try to get them involved. Choosing fun books, using creative voices, and asking questions about what’s happening in the story all make a story more engaging. Just have fun!”
At the end of the day, this dedication to the task is a reflection of how much these young women enjoy interacting with some of their smallest, and most passionate, admirers.
“My favorite part about library visits is just listening to everything the kids have to say,” says Princess Kira Korsmo, from Lakes High School.
“Many of the kids don’t have a filter – which is meant in the best way possible – because they tell you everything, from their favorite dinosaur, to what they ate for breakfast. Just listening to them talk, and watching the gears turn in their heads, is such a great joy!”
These interactions are a welcome part of royal duties for Princess Kira. “These kids are our future, and I love to be able to have a very small part in their lives, even if it’s through helping put a sticker on a paper tiara or reading a sentence in a book.”
When it comes to inspiring the Festival’s youngest fans to pursue a love of reading themselves, Princess Angelina would tell them that perseverance is the key. “My tip to kids would be that if you don’t find your type of book first, just keep reading until you do.”
“Keep pushing yourself to do your best, and never give up, even when it gets hard.”
The Daffodil Festival’s Queen Coronation will take place on Saturday, March 31 at the Rialto Theater in downtown Tacoma, when the new reigning Queen of the Daffodil Festival will be chosen amongst the 23 deserving Princesses. If you can’t make it, you can see them all atop the Royal Float during the Daffodil Festival Grand Floral Parade, which will be winding its way around the four Pierce County cities of Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, and Orting, on the following Saturday, April 7.
Details on these events and more are available on the Daffodil Festival website, www.thedaffodilfestival.org.