The biggest celebrities of them all: the 2020 Tournament of Roses Royal Court. L-R, Rose Queen Camille Kennedy, Rose Princesses Emilie Risha, Reese Rosental Saporito, Mia Thorsen, Michael Wilkins, Rukan Saif, Cole Fox.
by Laura Berthold Monteros
At the Tournament of Roses Parade, the real celebrities are the gorgeous floral creations that float along the parade route on New Year’s Day. The 131st Rose Parade, held on Jan. 1, 2020, was no exception. But that doesn’t mean there are no human celebrities! Riding along Colorado Blvd. in flower-bedecked antique vehicles is a tradition for the people that the current president chooses to represent the theme she has chosen, this year, Pres. Laura Farber chose “The Power of Hope.”
You can read more about them by exploring the 2020 Tournament of Roses page on this website. You can see them, nestled in the seats of beautiful vehicles and waving to the crowds, in the gallery below. Information about the cars is in the captions.
Tournament of Roses President Laura Farber surrounded by the Royal Court: Princesses Rukan Saif, Mia Thorsen, Emilie Risha, Queen Camille Kennedy, Princesses Reese Rosental Saporito, Michael Wilkins, Cole Fox
by Laura Berthold Monteros
With a snip of oversized goldens scissors, Rose Queen Camille Kennedy and the Tournament of Roses Royal Court opened the 36th Annual Visitors Hotline phone bank on Dec.11, two weeks earlier than usual. The Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau hosts the hotline to provide fast and accurate information about the 131st Rose Parade, 106th Rose Bowl Game, and the City of Pasadena.
Christine Susa, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Pasadena Convention and Visitors Center, told The Rose Examiner that the earlier calls are “less hectic” and more about hotels and the Rose Bowl Game teams than those that come after Christmas. “It’s more, ‘We just got our tickets, now what,” she said.
Lined up behind the wide red ribbon, the girls on the court grinned widely when Queen Camille cut the ribbon to officially open the hotline. Each station has a phone and bound book with all—or at least most—of the information volunteers need to help visitors to the 131st Tournament of Roses. The phones started ringing immediately, but we had a little time between calls to speak with the young women. One thing that is evident in watching and talking with this court is the way they enjoy each other. There was a lot of laughter this morning. Be sure to check out the gallery below!
College dreams and special birthdays
We started with Princess Reese Rosental Saporito, the youngest and tallest member of the Royal Court.
“She just turned 17 yesterday,” Queen Camille piped up. Reese said that she “doesn’t feel super different;” after all, she isn’t heads above the others (nor very much younger, though Dec. 31 is the deadline for Royal Court members to be at least 17.). She did acknowledge that sometimes she has to squat a bit for photos.
Camille has a birthday of her own coming up. She will turn 18 on Dec. 22. While she had traditional birthday celebrations growing up, despite being so close to Christmas, her last two birthdays were in Tokyo with her host family. They went out for sushi, then came home to traditional Japanese cakes. They’re very small, she said, each slice is a quarter of the cake.
We asked Princess Rukan Saif about her application to Yale College. (A disclaimer here, one of the offspring of The Rose Examiner attended Yale.) She said she will hear on Monday. She plans on studying history with an eye to law school and a professorship.
“All of us are finding out very soon,” she said, sounding pretty excited about it.
Princess Mia Thorsen is also waiting to hear from the many colleges to which she has applied. Her first choice is Brown University in Providence. Princess Emilie Risha said she had applied to schools in California, and has already been accepted to Saint Mary’s College of California in the Bay Area, and has received the highly competitive Presidential Scholarship.
Covering all her bases for the Rose Bowl Game, Princess Cole Fox has been accepted to the University of Oregon and is waiting to hear from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Ducks and Badgers will face off in the 2020 Rose Bowl Game. Cole applied to colleges all over the country that have outstanding biology programs, in preparation for going to med school.
“I’m open to whichever school has the best opportunities,” she said.
We asked Princess Michael Wilkins if she was a celebrity at her school. “I get a few ‘Hey, Princesses,’” she said, and sometimes applause when she enters a classroom. She says she and her parents talk about her role on the court all the time.
Both Reese and Mia attend Marshall Fundamental High School in Pasadena, and shared that they get have fun together after school. Reese reminded us that the last princess from Marshall was Queen Madison Triplett in 2015. In honor of the two, the school is putting up a display in the hall. The official Tournament of Roses photos have just been sent over for the display.
“It’s exciting,” Reese said. “It’s a special experience for the school and for us.”
An innovative president
Laura Farber has expanded the boundaries of the Rose Parade. Her tenure has seen the inclusion of more women and Latinos than in the past, matching the diversity of the Pasadena area and the Tournament of Roses Association, and she has added a brand-new half-time show to the parade.
“It’s the largest international stage that exists,” she said in her introductory remarks. “This year is really spectacular,” It’s the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in federal elections, and a woman will pilot the B-2 in its flyover.
We asked her about the half-time show, “Frozen 2,” which will occur at the mid-point in the parade. Some followers of our Facebook page, All Things Rose Parade, have expressed concerns that the show will only perform for the video cameras on Orange Grove and Colorado.
“It’s been off-the-charts positive,” she replied. The performance will continue all along the parade route, not just for the cameras. “We want to give everyone a treat.”
“We’re trying to appeal to a broader audience,” she added, to balance the traditional and the innovative. “We have something for everybody, to appeal to everybody.”
In addition to Farber, officials attending were Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek and Vice-Mayor Tyron Hampton; Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Michael Ross, Executive Director Jeanne Goldsmith, and Director of Marketing and Communications Christine Susa; and Tournament of Roses Executive Director/CEO David Eads.
Subscribe to “The Rose Examiner” to get news and articles throughout the year.
Rose Princesses Rukah Saif, Mia Thorsen, Emilie Risha, Reese Rosental Saporito, Michael Wilkins, Camille Kennedy, and Cole Fox are introduced by KTLA News anchor Lynette Romero
by Laura Berthold Monteros
On the patio of the famed Pasadena Playhouse, gathered friends, family, Tournament of Roses members, and media bustle in anticipation of one of the most exciting annual events in the city. Inside, after the chatter dies down, the 102nd Rose Queen will be announced. Chosen from seven young women on the Tournament of Roses 2020 Royal Court, the queen will preside over the 131st Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2020. But who will it be?
The story is really in the pictures in the gallery below, so be sure to take a look and read the captions to learn more about the women of the Tournament of Roses Royal Court.
Amid servers carrying plates of hors d’oeuvres, the music of The Mariachi Divas, and snapping cameras, we were able to identify the parents (the dads wear white rose boutonnieres) and talk with a few. They had lovely memories of their daughters, and were happy to share with The Rose Examiner. For more about the Royal Court, check out the Royal Court page on this website.
ON THE PATIO
Princess Rukah Saif must have set the record for the family member who traveled the farthest. Her grandmother, Shamsun Nahar, flew all the way from Bangladesh and just arrived a few days earlier. Rukah’s mother, Rumana Rashid, said her daughter had been going to the Rose Parade since she was a child perched on her father’s shoulders.
“She enjoyed it through her whole youth,” Rashid said. She described Rukah as quiet and very kindhearted. “She is our only child. She grew up with us.”
Her mother and father, Saif Haroon, were graduate students—she in molecular biology and he in civil engineering—when Rukah was born. She was still a preschooler when they moved to California, and has been to the parade very year since. She even marched with the Arcadia High School Band in one and helped to decorate a float.
Princess Michael Wilkins—“Mike” to her family and friends—is also an only child. He father, Overton Wilkins, said, “She’s my little sunshine,” and related how he sang “This Little Light of Mine” to her.
“She always made us proud,” he said. “She’s a nice young lady and we enjoy her.” Indeed. Her father said that in addition to being quite an athlete, having won in CIF tennis tournaments, “She’s just as good in speech and debate.” She’s been on the Maranatha High School team for four years, and went to the NAACP oratory finals in Detroit last July.
“I told her if you practice long enough, good things will happen,” Wilkins said. “She’s been a blessing to us.”
Princess Reese Rosental Saporito’s father, Chris Rosental Saporito, said, “I am so proud of her. She is fantastic.” She has handled her position on the Royal Court with grace, he said. Reese is on the soccer team with fellow Marshall Fundamental School Princess Mia Thorsen.
INSIDE THE PLAYHOUSE
It was pretty much an all-female and heavily Latina cast, with Pres. Laura Farber leading the way as the first Latina (and only third woman) leading the 2020 Tournament of Roses. She was joined by the chair of the Queen & Court Committee, Ruth Martinez-Baenen, emcee Lynette Romero from KTLA News, and of course the Divas. Farber welcomed the audience, thanked the sponsors, and introduced the Pasadena Playhouse director of development Nancy Griffith Baxter and emcee Romero.
Each of the seven princesses was introduced with a short slide show featuring photos from early childhood and teen years. Voiceovers by her parents mentioned accomplishments, character, and personality. When all seven were onstage in their diaphanous champagne gowns, it was time for the announcement. Farber stretched out the announcement with several teasing false starts, then opened the envelope to announce, “Camille Kennedy!” After hugs and photos, the girls left to be fitted with their tiaras and for Queen Camille to change into her white gown.
In the interim, Farber asked the former princesses and queens in attendance to stand up, and she introduced the 1940 Rose Queen, Margaret Huntley Main, attending her 80th coronation. Queen Margaret, who wrote the book A Rose Queen Is Forever, advised, “Enjoy every moment. You are making memories for the rest of your life.”
There was a slideshow of the Royal Court at community events and their retreat in Solvang, a Danish community in Central California. The Mariachi Divas gave a spirited performance of mariachi favorites. When the set was done, they walked off the stage playing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”
As each Rose Princess was led back onstage on her father’s arm, she received a bouquet of red roses from two former princesses, Maya Kawaguchi Kahn (2017) and Helen Rossi (2019). The previous Rose Queen usually presents the bouquet to the newly-announced queen, but due to a calculus midterm in Chicago, Queen Louise Deser Siskel could not make it. She sent a video promising to take Queen Camille out for a deep dish pizza to make up for it, and Martinez-Baenen presented the roses.
OVER BUT STILL GOING
After the program, there were rounds of still photos and interviews with the media for the members of the Royal Court. We were able to get a few words with Queen Camille and some of the other members of the court. Quotes from the princesses are in the captions below; they are amazing young women, so be sure to read them! We asked Queen Camille, who is fluent in Japanese and wants to attend college in the country, if she learns languages easily and what she learns about others from knowing their language.
“I do!” she replied. “That’s what I’m proud of.” Math and science are more challenging for her, she said. In addition to Japanese, she is “fascinated with Korean.”
“The best way to learn a culture is to learn the language, and if you’re interested in [learning about] a culture, learn the language.”
OFFICIAL TOURNAMENT OF ROSES BIO
Camille is a senior at La Salle College Preparatory and lives in Pasadena. She is currently a member of her school’s drama/musical theater troupe and has been featured in three productions, including a lead role in the spring 2019 musical, “City of Angels.” Camille is a member of the afterschool choral group and the Support Our Troops Club. Camille enjoys listening to music, performing in theater productions with friends, cooking, and hitting the gym with her dad. She plans to pursue a liberal arts degree in Japanese linguistics, social sciences, or culture and media studies. Camille is interested in going to college in Japan, with Waseda University in Tokyo and Asia Pacific University in Kyushu as her top choices. Camille is the daughter of Tim and Jennifer Kennedy; she has two younger sisters, Ava and Esmé.
2020 Rose Queen Camille and the Royal Court will attend numerous community and media functions, serving as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community, and the greater Los Angeles area. The grand finale will be their appearance on the Royal Court float in the 131st Rose Parade® presented by Honda and attending the 106th Rose Bowl Game® presented by Northwestern Mutual, both on Wednesday, January 1, 2020.
Rukan Saif, Arcadia High School; Mia Thorsen, Marshall Fundamental School; Emilie Risha, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy; Reese Rosental Saporito, Marshall Fundamental School; Michael Wilkins, Maranatha High School; Camille Kennedy, La Salle College Preparatory; Cole Fox, South Pasadena High School (L-R)
by Laura Berthold Monteros
The hustle and bustle of parents, schoolmates, reporters, photographers, and Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association members died down when Ruth Martinez-Baenen, chair of the Queen & Court Committee, stepped behind the lectern. After three weeks of interviews with applicants, she averred that it was very difficult to make the choice of which seven girls would become Rose Princesses. The process culminated on Monday morning with the announcement of the young women would serve on the 2020 Royal Court. They will represent the association and the city at some 100 events, including the 131st Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2020.
As the 25 finalists, each on the arm of a committee member, filed out of Tournament House, Martinez-Baenen read out the names and schools. Screams of family and friends filled the air as the girls were introduced. Photographers snapped photos, writers scribbled in notebooks, and some of us did both. Then Pres. Laura Farber stepped up and opened the seven envelopes one at a time.
“From South Pasadena High School, Cole Fox!” she read. “From La Salle College Preparatory, Camille Kennedy.” Following quickly were Michael Wilkins, Maranatha High School; Reese Rosental Saporito, Marshall Fundamental School; Emilie Risha, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy; Mia Thorsen, Marshall Fundamental School; Rukan Saif, Arcadia High School.
Be sure to page through the photo gallery below. Video will be coming to All Things Rose Parade on Facebook soon!
After the announcement, we were allowed four minutes to run though the line and get quotes. Here’s a sampling”
We overheard Princess Cole tell a TV reporter that she is “Loud and proud” and looking forward to getting to know the other girls on the court.
Princess Camille said that she was not expecting to be selected. “It feels surreal now,” she said.
“I’ve lived in Pasadena my whole life,” Princess Michael said of her motivation to try out for the court. “I wanted to be the person everyone can look up to.” an example for others.
“It’s so exciting!” Princess Reese said. “It’s amazing! I am extremely excited.”
“Every time you came back for an interview, there was a flutter in your heart,” Princess Emilie told us.
Princess Mia expressed a similar emotion when she was notified she would be moving to the next round. “Every time I got the congratulation email, I was nervous all over again,” she said, adding that as the interview sessions progresses, the remaining girls grew closer.
Princess Rukan was especially surprised when Pres. Farber read her name. “I was the last one called,” she reminded us, which meant the odds of getting a place on the court were slimmer.
The official Tournament of Roses bios
Cole Fox is a senior at South Pasadena High School and lives in South Pasadena. She is currently Associated Student Body senior class vice president, Copa De Oro (Yearbook) Head of Design, Student Site Council secretary, Girl Scouts of America member, POSSE Foundation Scholarship Semi-Finalist, and lead in school play “Metamorphoses.” Cole enjoys vegan cooking, Sudoku puzzles, creative writing, painting, hairstyling and dancing. She plans to study biology and attend medical school. Ultimately, she aspires to become a dermatologist and is interested in attending New York University, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Santa Barbara or Boston University. Cole is the daughter of Robert and Rachel Fox; she has two siblings, Harper and Sawyer.
Camille Kennedy is a senior at La Salle College Preparatory and lives in Pasadena. She is currently a part of her school’s musical theater troupe and has played the lead role in four productions. Camille is a member of the After-hours chorus class and the Support Our Troops Club. Camille enjoys listening to music, performing in theater productions with friends, working out with her dad, and cooking. She plans to pursue a liberal arts degree in Japanese linguistics, social sciences, or culture and media studies. Camille is interested in attending university in Japan, Waseda University in Tokyo and Asia Pacific University in Kyushu. Camille is the daughter of Jim and Jennifer Kennedy; she has two sisters, Ava and Esme.
Emilie Risha is a senior at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and lives in La Cañada. She is currently treasurer of the Young Writers’ Society, president of gardening in the Cooking and Gardening Club, Saint Francis High School Theatre dance captain and a member of the Library Advisory Board, Comedy Sportz, and Girl Scouts of Greater LA. Emilie enjoys dancing, writing, cooking, and reading. She plans to study comedy writing and copywriting. Emilie is interested in attending University of California, Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University, University of California, Davis, or Chapman University. Emilie is the daughter of Janah and Elizabeth Risha; she has three sisters, Lauren, Allison and Isabelle.
Rukan Saif is a senior at Arcadia High School and lives in Temple City. She is currently president of My Friend and I Club, National Honor Society vice president, captain of the Speech and Debate Team, Senior Men and Women secretary, Bangladeshi-American Charitable Organization ambassador and represented her high school at Girls’ State Conference. Rukan enjoys spending time with loved ones, playing the marimba, writing poetry, reading, and hiking. She plans to study American studies and history in hopes of later working towards a graduate degree. Rukan is interested in attending Brown University, Univeristy of California, Los Angeles, or Georgetown University. Rukan is the daughter of Saif Haroon and Rumana Rashid.
Reese Rosental Saporito is a senior at Marshall Fundamental School and lives in Altadena. She is currently a member of the varsity soccer team, International Thespian Society, National Honor Society, Unidos, Mock Trial, the Drama Council clerk, a Posse Scholar and AYSO Soccer captain. Reese enjoys musical theater, soccer, and participating in Moorpark Teaching Zoo Junior Safari program. She plans to become a lawyer with a science background, while staying involved in community theater. Reese is interested in attending Northwestern University or Georgetown University. Reese is the daughter of Chris and Dori Rosental Saporito; she has one sister, Maya.
Mia Thorsen is a senior at Marshall Fundamental School and lives in Altadena. She is currently president of the Girls Soccer Club, vice president of the Storytellers Club, manager of varsity Girls Soccer, a member of the Asian Club, Black Student Union, National Honors Society, Unidos, PolySummer, Prom Committee and the UCLA Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP). Mia enjoys oil painting, creative writing, sketching, sociology, politics, psychology, reading, soccer, tennis, and human geography. She plans to study international law to become a United Nations ambassador. Mia is interested in attending Brown, Barnard, Tufts, UCSB. Mia is the daughter of Remus and Dina Thorsen; she has one brother, Thor.
Michael Wilkins is senior at Maranatha High School and lives in Pasadena. She is currently captain of varsity tennis, and a member of the Ambassador Club, Helping Hands Club, and Advanced Speech and Debate. Michael enjoys tennis, public speaking, golf, swimming, babysitting, spending time with family, traveling, and getting her nails done with her mom. She plans to study medicine with the goal to become pediatrician. Michael is interested in attending the University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles, Howard University, University of California, San Diego, University of Oregon, or Loyola Marymount University. Michael is the daughter of Overton Wilkins and Jane Reese-Wilkins.
The Announcement and Coronation of the 102nd Rose Queen® and Presentation of the 2020 Royal Court is on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at the Pasadena Playhouse; the event is sponsored by Citizens Business Bank. A limited number of tickets are available for purchase from Sharp Seating Company.
Above: Finalists for the 2020 Royal Court enjoying the moment. Copyright LB Monteros 2019
by Laura Berthold Monteros
The announcement of the young women who made it to the last round of judging for the Tournament of Roses Royal Court is always exciting. Who made it? Which schools are represented? How many from each? Who do you think will be chosen as one of the seven girls on the 2020 Royal Court? On Monday, seven women will be announced as princesses, and one of those will be chosen as the Rose Queen
Today’s year’s class of finalists is the smallest we have seen, with 25 girls from 14 schools. Generally, the number is around 35. Here are some stats: School with the most representatives, Westridge School, four. Finalists from public schools: 15; from private schools, 10; from schools located in the City of Pasadena, 15 from seven schools.
First row, from left: (#100) Lailah Batchelder, Blair High School; (#093) Carly Witteman, La Canada High School; (#088) Janelle Johnson, John Marshall Fundamental High School; (#059) Rukan Saif, Arcadia High School; (#033) Siena Dancsecs, La Canada High School; (#030) Emilie Risha, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy; (#023) Reese Rosental Saporito, John Marshall Fundamental High School.
Second row, from left: (#252) Samantha Kennedy, Mayfield Senior School; (#248) Ai Kusayanagi, Temple City High School; (#235) Michael Wilkins, Maranatha High School; (#209) Amaiya Drew, Pasadena High School; (#200) Ava Walters, Pasadena High School; (#189) Lily Nelson, Westridge School; (#129); Reese Owen, Westridge School; (#129) Saudia Usher, John Muir High School.
Top row, from left: (#492) Mia Thorsen, John Marshall Fundamental High School; (#484) Lily Mendez, Mayfield Senior School; (#410) Camille Kennedy, La Salle High School; (#394) Sydney Chang, Arcadia High School; (#390) Sydney Haupt, La Salle High School; (#315) Heein Kim, San Marino High School; (#296) Eleanor Washburn, Westridge School; (#295) Kathleen Fox, South Pasadena High School; (#294) Mia Dawson, South Pasadena High School; (#273) Sophia Rubbo, Westridge School.
Fall in Pasadena brings a flurry of activity for the Tournament of Roses Royal Court. From the first weekend in September until the third week of October, the months are filled with various rounds of tryouts, the announcement of the court, and the announcement and coronation of the young woman chosen to be the Rose Queen. In the days in between, the girls learn how to be princesses, bond as a unit, and engage with the public.
The Rose Examiner will be at these upcoming events and will file reports, so be sure to subscribe in the box to the left. (We promise, no spam emails.)
Royal Court Announcement Seven young women out of about 35 finalists will be chose to serve on the 2020 Royal Court.
Sept. 30, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.
391 South Orange Grove Blvd.
Rose Queen Announcement and Coronation Ceremony The culmination of weeks of hopes and dreams, the one who is outstanding in a court of extraordinary women will be crowned the 102nd Rose Queen. Tickets are now on sale at Sharp Seating Company.
Oct. 22, 2019 at 6 p.m.
Reception, 5:30 p.m.; Coronation, 7 p.m.
39 S El Molino Ave., Pasadena, Calif.
Applications are open for the 131st Rose Parade, to be held on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Seven selected young women will represent the Tournament of Roses and City of Pasadena in the parade and at the 106th Rose Bowl Game. The court performs duties from the time of selection through the selection of the next court in 2020. More information is available on the Royal Court webpage and the online application.
The first round takes place over two days to accommodate the 700 to 1,000 applicants: Saturday, Sept. 7, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and Monday, Sept. 9, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The dates for the second, third, and final rounds are on the website. All are at Tournament House, 391 S. Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena.
In the first round, each applicant has 15 seconds in front of the Queen & Court Committee to state her badge number and why she wants to be on the Royal Court. The selection committee will not ask any questions nor ask the applicant to begin speaking.
Advice from previous Court members is to be confident, be genuine, and be yourself. The Tournament suggests wearing something that feels comfortable, reflects the girl’s personality, and will make a good first impression. The Rose Examiner has noticed that almost all the girls wear dresses, and many wear the same “lucky” dress for the entire round of interviews. Participants are selected based upon a combination of qualities, including public speaking ability, youth leadership, academic achievement, and community and school involvement.
To participate, an applicant must
Identify as a female, at least 17 years of age by December 31, 2019, and not more than 21 years of age before January 5, 2020
Possess at least a 2.0 grade point average in both the current and previous years’ course work
Be available to participate, in person, in all interview sessions in the fall
Be a senior in high school or enrolled as a full-time student (minimum 12 units) in any accredited school or college in the Pasadena Area Community College District
Complete the official Royal Court online application
At the tryouts, former Royal Court members brief applicants on what to expect and are available to answer questions. Tours of the historic Wrigley Mansion are offered and all the applicants are gifted with a rose, photo, official Rose Parade poster, and a ticket for two to the Royal Ball, a semi-formal dance hosted by the Tournament of Roses at the Pasadena Convention Center on Sept. 21.
Most of the 100 or so appearances occur from mid-October to the first week in January. For the many hours they serve, the young women on the Royal Court receive both tangible and intangible benefits. They serve in a world-renowned volunteer community, develop public speaking and etiquette skills, and receive a $7,500 educational scholarship, full wardrobe for appearances, and professional hairstyling and make-up application and instruction.
Actor Nic Novicki led a cheer—actually, several of them—to celebrate Easterseals 100th anniversary and the Rose Parade float at Fiesta Parade Floats.
by Laura Berthold Monteros
Easterseals has aided people with disabilities for a full century and is the largest disabilities service provider in the United States. To celebrate and honor this anniversary, the organzation is sending its first-ever entry, a giant flowered birthday cake down the Rose Parade route in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1, 2019,. Last Saturday, Easterseals Southern California (ESSC) threw a party at Fiesta Parade Floats and invited Tournament of Roses Royalty to attend. Photos are below.
Nancy Weintraub, chief development officer for ESSC, said, “If there was ever a time to do one, this is now.” The 100th is a big party, and “it deserves a parade.”
Board member Mary Platt told us “For years [we talked about] how to get our name out among a broader group of people.” The float was a dream of hers and others. “All of a sudden, this became a reality.”
The “all of a sudden” took 18 months to two years to get through the process of committee work, coordinating with the headquarters in Chicago, and going through design and building. The festive float, “Celebrating Easterseals: 100 Years of Disability Services,” was designed by Charles Meier with a 20-foot high cake, party horns, and presents.
Easterseals serves 1.5 million people with disabilities across the country every year. ESSC is the largest autism service in California, with 8,500 families. One of the goals of Easterseals is to build a more inclusive future for the 61 million Americans with diverse disabilities. There are services for adults, children, veterans, seniors, and caregivers. Services include day services, therapy, peer-to-peer groups which help with social interaction, camp, and assistance in finding housing and employment.
There were a couple celebrities making the rounds at the party: actress Jamie Brewer, who has been a recurring actress in 20 episodes of American Horror Story, and Nic Novicki, who has 45 acting credits on IMDB and a couple dozen credits in writing, producing, and directing. He had a recurring role on Boardwalk Empire, and as Tyrion Lannister in the spoof School of Thrones. Both were irrepresible in their excitement over the Easterseals float and the work the nonprofit does.
Novicki is an ESSC board member and Founder/Director Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. The short videos have people with disabilities on or behind the camera, and can be serious or funny. Some can be viewed at the link above, along with information on how to enter the sixth challenge in 2019.
Brewer has worked in theater since she went to a summer program in 8th grade, for which she got college credit. She learned stagecraft, acting, and valuable skills for her career. In addition to American Horror Story, a new movie, Turnover, is in post production.
“An older man takes a new direction in life,” she explained. “He hires individuals who have different backgrounds, different abilities. Two special communities are represented: the Down Syndrome community and the deaf community.”
We asked if she sees herself as a role model and groundbreaker. She replied enthusiastically, “I am! I do break barriers! I’m the first woman with Down Syndrome to walk in a New York Fashion Week.”
When it was time to cut the real cake sitting in front of the float, President & CEO Mark Whitley underscored the “effort of inclusion” Easterseals promotes. “What better way to celebrate 100 years, than a float in the Rose Parade.”
Mary Platt stood with her son Michael, who is autistic, as she spoke. “The question is always, ‘What do you do?’” She said that the float will show some 80 million viewers all over the world what Easterseals does.
One of the most affecting speakers was Howard McBroom, Advocate for Easterseals. He worked himself into a job after some time of speaking with legislators and politicians as a volunteer. He was so effective in Sacramento, that Easterseals gave him a full-time job.
“Only one in five people with disabilities have affordable housing. The other four do not,” he stated. He says this is a “national disgrace.” When he meets with legislators who express sympathy, he tells them, “Compassion does not pay the bills.”
The young women on the Royal Court also spoke. Princess Helen Rossi, who has juvenile arthritis, said, “This event is special to me, because (for my Girl Scout Gold Award), I wrote a storybook for kids with disabilities.”
Queen Louise directly addressed the need for diversity. “I learned about Easterseals’ effort to destigmatize disability….Years ago, the Court was all white women,” she said, adding that the Tournament of Roses will continue to diversify.
“Celebrating Easterseals: 100 Years of Disability Services” will have 12 riders, spinning pinwheels, 3,000 hot pink roses, a coconut flake-covered cake, and lots and lots of marigolds. The flower is associated with Easterseals, and will be represented with fresh petals and stylized sculptures. McBroom will ride the float, with Easterseals Program Director Bryan Nguyen, who is a peer-to-peer counselor.
Kim Cohn, Vice President Marketing Communications for ESSC, explained how the riders were chosen. Each one of the 71 Easterseals affiliates were given the opportunity to nominate a rider, and 20 or 30 did.
“The committee looked for great, inspiring Easterseals stories, and those were chosen to ride the float,” she said.
Nine of the riders are Easterseals clients and three are accompanying riders. They are Kaison Shipp-Collier, 12, Easterseals Nevada (autism); Sophia Stafford, 17, Easterseals Southeastern Pennsylvania (Williams Syndrome), accompanied by sister Sabrina Stafford, Easterseals music therapist; Reagan Crabtree, 20, Easterseals Iowa (apraxia, autism); Blake Scribner, 21, Easterseals Central Illinois (brachial plexis injury), accompanied by Katie Pena, therapist; Matthew Jameson, 21, Easterseals Massachusetts (spastic diplegic cerebral palsy); Lora Glassman, 32, Easterseals Southern California (brain condition); Ernesto Gutierrez, 43, Easterseals Southern California (injury from an IED attack); Howard McBroom, 60, Easterseals Southern California (autism), accompanied by Brian Nguyen, Easterseals Program Director; danny Blake, 68, Easterseals Blake Foundation (cerebral palsy)
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Rose Queen Louise Deser Siskel cuts the ribbon as Princesses Micaela Sue McElrath, Sherry Xiaorui Ma (behind Louise), Rucha S. Kadam, Helen Susan Rossi, Ashley Symone Hackett, and Lauren Michele Baydaline look on.
by Laura Berthold Monteros
It’s always fun to watch a gaggle of teenage girls try to figure out the buttons on a phone when the Rose Parade Royal Court sits down to answer calls from folks trying to get information on the Tournament of Roses. Phones can be confusing, but these young ladies are quick learners.
Last Monday, 101st Rose Queen Louise Deser Siskel and the six Rose Princesses opened up the Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) annual hotline. The event took place early this time around, so there will be plenty of time for inquiries about the Rose Parade, Rose Bowl Game, and related events. The big moment, of course, was when Queen Louise cut the red ribbon with oversized shears to officially open the phones.
Be sure to check out the photos in the gallery below. More articles about the Royal Court are here.
The event opened with brief remarks by Michael Ross, CEO of CVB; Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek; and Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny. Christine Susa, CVB Director of Marketing & Communications and Crystal Williams, Communications Manager made sure all ran smoothly.
We managed to speak with a few of the girls in between calls.
Princesses Rucha and Helen said “it’s so much fun” to be on the Court and meet lots of people. They said the Court has really bonded, “like sisters.”
Helen has been living with juvenile arthritis since she was a teenager. Seeing very young children as she was being treated at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles inspired her to write and illustrate a picture book to help them deal with the disease. She called it Joe’s Toes, and it was her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
“I know how hard it is…not to do things” other kids can do, she said.
We asked her how she keeps up with the rigorous schedule of a Rose Princess. “I have a really great team at Children’s Hospital. Every day I wake up so grateful and blessed to have this experience!” It’s all about having people around who understand when she is hurting, she added.
We wanted to catch up with Princess Ashley, who attends the alma mater of The Rose Examiner’s children. She confirmed that she has submitted her applications to four universities with excellent Human Biology departments—UCLA, USC, Ohio State, and University of Washington. Coincidentally, UW is sending a team to the 2019 Rose Bowl Game. Her minor will be African-American Studies.
Asked about her life at John Muir High School, she responded, “I’m barely at Muir!” With 100 events between October and January, none of the girls spends much time on campus.
“The support is awesome,” Ashley reports. “I’m staying on top of my studies as much as possible.”
She was able to participate with the Muir Pep Squad in the Turkey Tussle for the first time. (The Turkey Tussle is the annual homecoming game for both John Muir and crosstown rival Pasadena High School, and is played in the Rose Bowl.) In addition to cheering, Ashley has been doing praise dancing since she was 10 years old, which helped her break out of her shell.
“I’m extremely blessed with this opportunity,” she said, and expressed gratefulness to God and her high school administration.
Queen Louise told us she has also submitted most of her college applications. She’s applied early acceptance to University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Yale, and Tufts. She affirmed that her research projects are not suffering from the Royal Court schedule.
Speaking of schedules, here are the days and hours the Visitor Hotline is open.
Visitor Hotline (877) 793-9911 Hours of Operation (PST)
Monday, December 3rd – Friday, December 7th 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday, December 10th – Friday, December 14th 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday, December 17th – Friday, December 21st 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday, December 24th – Friday, December 28th 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday, December 31st 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Hours are subject to change on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day (closed) and New Year’s Eve
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