Jan. 18, 2020 — The 2020 Rhododendron Festival Court met for the first time on Thursday as student participants prepare for the next five months of speaking in public, interacting with community members and representing Florence as ambassadors.
Turns out, being a prince or princess is about a lot more than just waving in the Rhododendron Grand Floral Parade.
“You guys as members of the court are truly ambassadors for the festival and for the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce,” said Rhody Court Chair Jenna Bartlett. “We try to make this experience as fun and educational as we can. And, of course, we have scholarships for our senior court at the end. For the juniors, it’s a special time since you get to bond with a senior princess and have fun with all of us.”
The 2020 Rhododendron Senior Court is made up of Siuslaw High School seniors Princess Brooklyn Cahoon, Princess Shakina Grover, Princess Kelsey Larson, Princess Madelynn Levi, Princess Chloe Madden, Princess Elizabeth Rosinbaum and Princess Taylor Winona. Prince Andrew Austin may be joined by two more senior princes.
The 2020 Junior Court is made up of Siuslaw Elementary students Princess Farrah Baze, first grade; Princess Addison Stewart, second grade; Princess Abigael Hummel, third grade; Princess Rianna Weese, fourth grade; and Princess Emmy Center, fifth grade.
This year’s court is truly a “Blast from the Past” — this year’s Rhody Days theme — as several members have had Rhody Royalty in their families.
Celebrating 10 years advising the Rhody Court are co-chairs Bartlett and Dee Osborne. Other committee members include Meg Spencer, Jo Beaudreau and Tess Yahyazadeh.
While Osborne and a volunteer delivered tiaras to the princesses, Bartlett introduced the court. Senior princes will be receiving a sash.
“It’s really exciting for me helping out, since I get to see juniors grow into seniors. We have one junior princess who is now a senior, and that’s Princess Taylor,” Bartlett said. “It’s just a wonderful time.”
The duties for the Rhody Court include a formal dinner and etiquette training, speech practice with Siuslaw Talespinners Toastmasters, public appearances at Rotary Club of Florence, Florence Kiwanis Club, Soroptimist International of Florence, the Florence Chamber Siuslaw Awards and more.
Participation at these events is just a fraction of the final score for the Senior Court.
Fun is a big part of it, as is mentorship, as the eight members of the Senior Court have been matched with the Junior Princesses. The Rhody Court is encouraged to spend time together over the next five months, and history shows that some friendships will last long after Rhody Days ends.
The Senior Court is ultimately preparing for the coronation ceremony on Wednesday, May 13, at the Florence Events Center, when this year’s Queen Rhododendra and King of the Coast will be named.
The event includes interviews, group presentations and talents, all on the main stage.
“Seniors, we talked in our interviews about what talents you might want to do, and I’m excited to see what you come up with for this year,” Bartlett said.
Spencer and other committee members will work with the entire court on talents and other components of the ceremony.
The May 13 coronation kicks off the Rhododendron Festival weekend, May 15 to 17, which features the Rhody Run, Rhododendron Flower Show, Kiwanis Kids Games, the Junior Parade, Davis Carnivals NW, a vendor fair and the Grand Floral Parade. These events and more take place in Historic Old Town Florence, the Florence Events Center, Port of Siuslaw Boardwalk and all over town.
Another component of scoring is money collected from button boxes. All court members will be selling official Rhody Days buttons, which will be available for purchase in February.
Businesses wishing to sponsor a Rhody Court member should contact Osborne at [email protected] or 541-999-1669 by Jan. 31.
Sponsorships and button money help go to keeping the Rhody Court going each year, as well as the annual scholarships for the seniors. Junior Court members get free tickets to the Rhody Days Carnival.
“Everyone is guaranteed a scholarship,” Bartlett said. “That is something that we as a committee have worked really hard towards. We certainly keep in mind that the schedule can be overwhelming, especially for seniors who can be really busy, but we want to keep the momentum going.”
More information about the 2020 Rhododendron Festival can be found at florencechamber.com.