100th Rose Queen Isabella Marie Marez is flanked by (L-R) Rose Princesses Georgia Jane Cervenka, Sydney Grace Pickering, Julianne Elise Lauenstein, Alexandra Marie Artura, Savannah Rose Bradley, Lauren Elizabeth Buehner
by Laura Berthold Monteros
One of the most exciting events for Rose Parade aficionados—and that includes people all across America—is the Announcement and Coronation of the Rose Queen and Presentation of the Royal Court. This year, people were especially riveted, because the young woman who made it from one of 700 to one of seven would serve as the 100th Rose Queen. She will preside over the 129th Rose Parade and the 104th Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2018 and will be asked a thousand times what it is like to be Number 100.
The audience waited breathlessly last Wednesday evening as Pres. Lance Tibbet pulled the name out of the envelope he had been handed by Queen & Court chair Dave Link. Reporters and photographers had pens and cameras at the ready. The seven girls on the Royal Court held hands, some with eyes closed, and steeled themselves for the decision one way or another. And it came, so swiftly after what must have seemed like an eternity to them.
Pres. Tibbet announced, “The 100th Rose Queen, from La Salle High School, is Isabella Marie Marez!” The audience exploded. The princesses on the Royal Court swarmed Queen Isabella. The moment had arrived and passed, and the Queen for a Year retreated to change from her champagne and pink gown into pure white.
Making a Difference
The event is more than the announcement, of course. It’s about pageantry and history and fun, and the accomplishments of the young women who will serve as ambassadors for the Tournament of Roses. We attempt to capture some of that in this article; the photo gallery at the end of this article takes you there in images.
After a reception on the patio of the historic Pasadena Playhouse, also celebrating 100 years, the milling crowd left the tiled patio and entered the auditorium, an ornate Spanish Colonial Revival space that holds wisps of Old California and memories of young actors who rose to stardom after performing on that stage. It is the perfect place for two grand and venerable and youthful institutions to meet.
The princesses opened the program by introducing themselves and welcomed the 113th President of the Tournament of Roses, Lance Tibbet, and then hurried off to change into the lovely lace gowns designed by Tadashi Shoji.
Each president has a particular focus he or she wants emphasize in the many events the Tournament puts on each year. He distills that into a theme; for Tibbet, it is “Making a Difference.” The girls “each have different stories,” he said. “These girls are already making a difference.” He mentioned that they, like the presidents of the Tournament, stand on the shoulders of those who have come before them.
“The Tournament of Roses brings people together,” Tibbet said. “It reminds us that there is kindness in humankind.”
Each year, the Royal Court picks a charity to receive funds from the coronation ticket sales. This year, it was Elizabeth House, a Pasadena residence that was founded 24 years ago to help homeless pregnant women and their children with programs that will get them on their feet. Executive Director Debora Unruh told us that the shelter, which houses women and any children they have through their pregnancies and for two to four months after their babies are born, received a grant from the Tournament of Roses Foundation in the past.
Presentation of the Royal Court
After his speech, it was time for the 2018 Royal Court to be formally presented. In a nice touch, each father each did a voice over introducing his daughter as she was escorted to her place on the stage by a White Suiter. Her accomplishments were read as snapshots of her life flashed on a screen in the background. For some of the dads, it was an emotional moment. Jesse Marez took a pause of several seconds between his last sentence and reading out his daughter Isabella’s name. Had he forgotten that piece of the introduction? No, it turns out that he was fighting back tears. (Later, Queen Isabella said that he is her best friend, that he cries a lot, and they had teased each other about whether or not he would cry at the ceremony.)
As each young woman entered the spotlight, emcee Ellen K of KOST 103.5FM interviewed her briefly. It was clear that each one of these young ladies has the personality and credentials to be the queen. The lists of volunteer and community service activities are staggering: hospitals, charity organizations, clubs, and one in Belize working to provide clean water. They are Girl Scouts Gold Award recipients, athletes, members of academic honors societies, and leaders.
And then the Rose Queen was announced, there were cheers and tears, as the princesses retired backstage to leave their white rose nosegays and receive their tiaras, and for the queen to change her gown. Other members of the Tournament of Roses family were introduced during the interim.
Little princesses and grown-up queens
Two Make-A-Wish children, Madelyn Kirkpatrick, dressed as Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Miracle Henderson, dressed as Princess Anna from Frozen came onstage to talk with Ellen K. Madelyn’s wish is to go to Disneyland, and Miracle’s is to go to Disney World. We asked parents Torin and Sara Kirkpatrick and Darryl and Veronica Henderson why the girls were picked, and Torin said, “They chose two girls who like princesses.” Guess that’s a good reason!
Next up was 99th Rose Queen Victoria Castellanos, a graduate of the Temple City High School music program, who sang beautifully and emotionally. Tori was followed by the Grand Dame Margaret Huntley Main, the 22nd Rose Queen and co-founder of the Queens Club with Sally Stanton Rubsamen. She was surrounded by 18 previous Rose Queens.
Never shy with a microphone, Ms. Main quoted the title of her book, A Rose Queen Is Forever. (The title came from a Kodak float of the past, on which 52 Rose Queens appeared.) She told Ellen K that when she received the crown, “I vowed to be the best Queen I could, and every one of us has made the same vow.” Several of the queens spoke about what it has meant to them to be a Rose Queen.
And then it was time. Each Rose Princess, now with a pearl tiara in her hair, glided onto the stage on the arm of her father: Georgia, Lauren, Sydney, Savannah, Julianne, Alexandra. 2017 princesses Maya Kawaguchi Khan, Shannon Larsuel, and Natalie Petrosian handed red rose bouquets to each. Last of all, Queen Isabella stepped into the spotlight. John Cotter, who comes with the Mikimoto crown, handed the diadem to a gloved Tibbet, and the president placed it on Isabella’s head. The final formality, the recitation of the Rose Queen Oath, ended with “I now proclaim you the 100th Rose Queen!” And then it was time for photos and interviews, and celebrity treatment that would bowl any high school girl over—except for one as exceptionally grounded as the seven young women on the 2018 Royal Court.
Rose Queen Isabella Marie Marez
When we spoke with Princess Isabella after the Royal Court was announced earlier this month, we asked why she had tried out. She said she wanted to get out of her comfort zone, which is playing softball and getting dirty and sweaty. When we spoke with Queen Isabella after the ceremony, we asked if she had gotten out of that comfort zone. “Way out of it! 10,000 miles!” she enthused. “The Court made me my best self.”
She said the formal ball gown “is way different from my uniform.” Softball pants are easy to move around in and have lots of legroom. The gown though, is “more comfortable than I thought.” The full skirt allows for movement, and the gown is tailored to her exact measurements.
At age 17, Queen Isabella has already compiled a lengthy list of accomplishments and service, as have the other girls on the Court, which are listed here. What does she think made her stand out to the Queen & Court Committee members? “I think it’s my passion for what I do,” she responded, citing her work on women’s rights and other social justice issues. She believes in treating all people equally, which is a good quality for a queen, we think.
Isabella lives in Altadena, a community just north of Pasadena. She likes the confluence of town and nature in Altadena; one of her favorite memories is the smell and comfort of being in the forest among the trees. Her parents are Jesse Marez and Christine Marez and she has four siblings, Alexandra, Jennifer, Justin and William.
Just for fun, here are some coincidences in Isabella’s life on the court. Like the 99th Rose Queen Victoria, she bears the name of a famous queen from history. The girl she stood next to for court appearances from Oct. 1 to her coronation is named Alexandra Marie, a combination of her middle name and her sister’s first name. Since applicants are only known by number until the final round, her No. 469 she would have spent a good deal of time near No. 470, Princess Julianne.
For all the articles on the 2018 Royal Court, check out our dedicated webpage.
All photos are copyright by Laura B. Monteros