Of the half a million people under 21 living in the Portland metro area, only 15 will be chosen to represent Portland as Rose Festival princesses. On June 8, 2013, only one will be chosen to reign over Rosaria at the Queen’s Coronation presented by Pacific Power. This is a Portland tradition since 1907, and we hear a lot about the princesses and their activities this time of year, but how about a mom’s perspective?
I was able to ask 10 questions of Rose Festival princess mom Kerri Burke, whose daughter Allison was recently chosen as the Metro West Rose Festival Princess. Allison is 17 and is a senior at Tigard High School.
Were you surprised your daughter was chosen to be a princess and was there any prep you did together?
Yes, I was surprised; the Metro West group of applicants covered 13 high schools west of Portland and there was only one slot. I knew the odds were there would be a few applicants from each high school which made the Metro West princess slot very competitive. I knew Allison had wonderful qualities, but you expect that other applicants have good things to offer and I didn’t know exactly the committee was looking for in their ideal princess.
Once Allison was selected to move to the final round of judging, her dad and I helped her rehearse her speech and field potential questions that the judges may ask her. Most of all we just encouraged her to stay true to herself and let her personality shine through.
How much time does being a Rose Festival require on an average week?
Allison was crowned mid-March and there was very little time commitment that month. In April the girls would meet as a group 1-2 times a week in the evening for “princess” training. Starting in May the girls stopped school (grades are frozen and they are done for the school year) and they travel full-time. Their schedule is typically Tuesday – Saturday. Each day is scheduled in advance and is full of activities that take the girls all over Oregon to promote the festival. Some days are a typical work day of eight hours, others are much longer. But, regardless of the length – she has had so much fun each day.
How does she get around to all the activities, transportation-wise?
Allison drives herself to court headquarters daily and the girls have a chartered bus that takes them to all their appearances.
As a mom to a 6 year old, my guiltiest thought is that the time I let her watch TV takes away from time she could be learning skills or being creative. What is your stance on kids and TV?
I have always been careful with TV. If you ask my kids what shows they watched growing up I suspect they would names shows like I Dream of Jeannie, Mary Tyler Moore, Remington Steele and old Doris Day movies – to name a few– we love old TV and movies. We would watch these on DVD which kept us from the barrage of commercials that I find annoying.
How do you balance your daughter’s Rose Festival commitment with your work and home? Does she have a job?
The month of May, so far has been very busy and we were warned by the Court Coordinators that the girls may just want to sleep on their days off. This so far has proven to be true! She has so much fun during the week and very little sleep, that her off-time has been truly spent at home. Her free time is spent catching up on sleep, doing laundry, relaxing and getting ready for the next exciting week of activities. I try to bring us together once a day even if it is just for a few minutes to hear about each other’s day and keep close. Since she is gone during the day her schedule has really not interfered with my work schedule. Dinner usually starts without her if she is home after 6:30 pm, but she knows she has a plate when she gets home. The festival takes good care of her and knowing she is in such good hands causes very little stress. My most stressful part of this was actually getting her trained to drive in Portland rush hour traffic safely and finding her way to headquarters – I am a worry-wart when it comes to my teenager driving.
Allison purposely did not get a job in high school. My philosophy is that she has the rest of her life after high school to work and I encouraged her instead to find ways to volunteer in the community. She found great ways to contribute to her community and I think learned a lot more than she would have working an hourly job. I was extremely proud of her being awarded the 2013 Youth Volunteer of the Year award by the Tigard Chamber of Commerce last month. I do not give her an allowance, but when I know she is busy volunteering and contributing to our community I am happy to pay for gas and give her a little spending money.
What appearance or obligation is she most looking forward to this year? What has been the highlight in her reign so far?
Each day’s schedule is different from the prior day, which makes it new and very exciting. The visit she has enjoyed the most so far is the Pendleton overnight visit. She said everyone had such a fun time both days and the court really bonded together. Pendleton pulled out all the stops to show the girls a fantastic time. She is really looking forward to the Grand Floral Parade and coronation June 8th. These girls have become close friends and each has such unique and amazing qualities. I know she will walk away from this with lifelong friends in the court as well as the adults who lead this program. They are all top-notch.
She seems very accomplished in many areas. What one thing as a parent would you recommend doing to have a well-rounded, accomplished child?
Nurture your child’s interests. Go to the library weekly and allow them to explore their interests in books and activities. Read to them daily when they are young and always talk to them with respect and love. Teach your child the love of service by finding ways they can serve their community even when they are little. It is important to also not overload your child – so there is a lot of room for imagination. Hug and kiss daily – you can never get too much of this. Allison still will hold my hand sometimes when we are out together, and that still (secretly) brings tears to my eyes.
When your child discovers something they really like, try to link other things to that activity. For instance, Allison early on discovered she liked going to see theater shows on stage. When she was old enough I signed her up for a theater class, read to her stories before seeing plays and encouraged her to do her own plays at home. This activity taught her to speak comfortably in public, think on her feet and memorize tricky dialogue. It also brought her into contact with a variety of quirky people with eclectic backgrounds – which I loved. Many of her best friends are theater people now, all this from exploring something she showed interest in when she was little.
What do you, personally, like most about Allison being a Rose Festival princess?
The experience has been truly priceless. There are activities she comes home and tells us about that we know we would never get to experience – it is like she has an all-access pass every place they visit. I love hearing about all the details of her visits and stories she tells. She gets a beautifully curated wardrobe, a personal mentor from Pacific Power and a generous scholarship funded by the Randall Group. Not to mention it is really fun to see your child in the newspaper or on TV representing the City of Portland and the Rose Festival.
Was she into princesses as a kid and what was her favorite Rose Festival activity growing up, i.e. Grand Floral parade, Starlight Parade, Fun Center?
Allison loved princesses growing up – she and I always wondered why the Disney princesses always didn’t have their moms, and we would discuss that – ha! She loved dressing up and was a princess once or twice for Halloween. I didn’t however push the princess stuff – I encouraged her to like what she liked – we were not “pink-centric” if you know what I mean.
Allison loves a parade – anything that brings the community together – enjoying the Junior, Starlight and Grand Floral Parades were part of her childhood.
What do you think she will carry from this experience in college and later in life?
I think she will carry with her the friendships she has made with the court and the adults leading the court. She will be even more confident to try new things, find more was to serve her community and continue to find ways to be the best Allison she can be. She is heading the Linfield College this fall to study Nursing – I know the Rose Festival Court Program has helped her immensely and her association with this program will continue to do so. Her dad and I both feel very fortunate in receiving this opportunity for our daughter and encourage other parents to consider having their daughter’s apply for this truly rewarding scholarship program.