Mary Neville was crowned queen of the 84th annual Rhododendron Festival, and Kaylee Krajewski and Ellienne Thornton were named princesses during the coronation ceremony Feb. 16 at Chimacum High School.
Neville, a 15-year-old sophomore at the Jefferson Community School in Port Townsend, received the congeniality award from her fellow candidates. Krajewski, a 16-year-old sophomore at Port Townsend High School, was recognized for selling more Rhody Fest pins than either of her fellow candidates, although all three were praised for selling well more than the $800 minimum.
CHS Principal Brian MacKenzie, who served as master of ceremonies, said the coronation not only was rescheduled from the previous weekend, it also braved “a nationally declared emergency” to continue.
Each of the three royalty candidates was introduced with a letter written by her parents read aloud for the audience.
“When people in the community talk to me about you, they always say to me, ‘Wow, that Mary,’” Neville’s father wrote. “Your ability to strike out and do things with fierce independence and focus is astonishing to watch. It’s also extremely hard to keep up with.”
Neville’s father recounted an incident a year ago, when his daughter was confronted by “a violent and unpredictable man” after she finished dinner with a friend at a local restaurant.
“While most adults would have frozen in fear, you, fearing for your friend’s safety, stepped forward and confronted the threat head-on,” Neville’s father wrote. “Your unwavering strength and loyalty is something I am very proud of.”
Krajewski’s mother wrote of how her daughter created her own form of sign language when she was still learning to talk.
“You sit back, take things in, and when you’re ready, you take it on and succeed,” Krajewski’s mother wrote. “I love how you look for the good in everything, and how you always find a way to compliment each person you come in contact with, whether you know them or not. I am so proud of you for trying new things, taking on challenges and not giving up.”
Thornton’s parents wrote about their 17-year-old daughter’s extracurricular activities and charitable works. They described her as a helpful hard worker and a “trouper,” even when she’s not enamored with the tasks she’s carrying out.
“You have the ability to take any type of ‘hard knocks,’ and rework it into a positive endeavor,” Thornton’s parents wrote about the PTHS junior. “You have a sense of intuition about people’s emotions and thoughts, and seldom condemn anyone or speak of them in a negative manner.”
Thornton’s parents also noted their daughter’s ability to “mediate the situation,” as well as her reliability and commitment to honesty even in the face of “deal(ing) with the fallout.”
In the talent portion, Neville sang Katy Perry’s “Rise,” Krajewski received accompaniment as she played the drums, and Thornton expressed her gratitude to her adoptive home country by performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in American Sign Language.
The high school trio was not the only set of royals crowned Saturday afternoon.
The Queen’s Court was open to candidates from the seventh, eighth and ninth grades. Chimacum Middle School seventh-grader Paige Govia, 13, was joined by fellow princess and Blue Heron Middle School seventh-grader Addison Asbell on the court after they both exceeded their $600 goal for recruiting sponsors.
Govia previously was crowned as one of the Junior Royalty as a first-grader in 2013. Asbell’s older sister, Aurin, was among the Junior Royalty in 2011.
Govia described the week of Rhody Fest as a family get-together at her grandparents’ place, complete with a barbecue meal and watching the floats in the grade parade from their minivan near the fire station on Lawrence Street.
Asbell sees the Rhody Fest as a family affair, watching the pet parade with her sister and grandparents, and sitting next to the First Baptist Church to watch the grand parade.
Although Asbell has watched her sister and cousin Noelle in the parades in recent years, she’s lived in Port Townsend all her life and attended Rhody Fest every year she’s been able.
“My first time running the Rhody Run was in fourth grade, and I’ve run it ever since,” said Asbell, who also has participated in the trike races on a regular basis.
The Junior Royalty recruited seven candidates from first-grade classes throughout the county, including:
• From Salish Coast Elementary, Prince Grayson Hvidsten-Cain, 7, and Princess Zoe Peterson, 6.
• From Chimacum Creek Primary, Princess Rois Bradshaw, Prince Landon Eldridge and Prince Jamie Thompson, all 6, and Prince Kanyon Kjosen and Princess Gwen Mathews, both 7.
Rounding out the newly crowned royalty for 2019 were the Senior Royalty, with King Curt Russ and Queen Betty Grewell representing the Port Townsend Senior Association, and King Roger Horner and Queen Leetha Smith representing the Tri-Area.
Outgoing Princess Skyanna Iradella and Queen Desirae Kudronowicz could barely maintain their composure as they recalled their reign over the past year, and they shared how much their developing friendship has meant to each other.