First published in the Oct. 8 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
After a yearlong pandemic hiatus, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses returned to an iconic tradition to announce the seven members of the 2022 Royal Court this week, including a South Pasadenan among the princesses.
Amid much fanfare from a masked crowd, Stephen Perry, chair of the Tournament’s Queen and Court Committee, welcomed parents and supporters as he called the 29 court finalists to the stage. Noting “what a two years it has been,” Perry gave a nod to the slew of previous cancellations, including those of the 2021 Royal Court, local Rose Bowl Game and Rose Parade that were caused by the coronavirus and resulting public health measures.
“They will not be the first Royal Court to deal and navigate through interesting times in our history, and they won’t be the last,” he said of the girls. “But having met them, I know they will meet each and every challenge with grace and positive thinking to make their world a better place.”
Tournament President Bob Miller took center stage to reveal the lucky seven princesses, one of whom will be crowned Rose Queen later this month.
They are Ava Feldman of South Pasadena High School; Jeannine Briggs, John Marshall Fundamental High School; Abigail Griffith, Pasadena High School; Nadia Chung, La Cañada High School; Jaeda Walden, LCHS; Swetha Somasundaram, Arcadia High School; and McKenzie Street, Flintridge Sacred Heart.
Miller explained the challenge of choosing among so many deserving girls this year, especially since the Tournament extended the applications to those who already graduated from high school.
In line with the Rose Parade theme “Dream, Believe, Achieve,” the court stands for “celebrating the determination of those who traveled the path from dream to reality. Our ambitions are limited only by expectations we impose on ourselves,” Miller said.
The whoops and hollers of local fan groups echoed over the Tournament lawn as the beaming princesses posed with brimming bouquets.
SPHS senior Feldman shifted her roses as she took in the moment, noting her surprise at being chosen out of so many girls. Though her mom had encouraged her to try out initially, she said, the interview process felt natural and welcoming.
Applicants from 24 Pasadena-area schools participated in the interview process, and volunteer members of the Queen and Court Committee selected the Royal Court based on several criteria, including public speaking ability, academic achievement, youth leadership, and community and school involvement.
“There were so many of us starting out, and then to be chosen out of 29, it is super surprising. Mostly, I am just feeling extremely grateful — it is such an incredible opportunity to be here,” said Feldman, adding that she grew up watching the Royal Court each year. “I’ve always wanted to be on the court ever since I was a little girl going to the Rose Parade.”
Feldman is a busy young woman as the editor in chief of the SPHS yearbook, the Copa de Oro; president of the South Pasadena and San Marino YMCA delegation; senior presentation representative of National Charity League; vice president of the Teaching and Sharing Skills to Enrich Lives club; a Girl Scout Gold Award recipient; and co-captain of her school’s varsity girls’ tennis team.
Feldman, who aspires to become a child psychologist, especially enjoys volunteering with children, making the Tournament of Roses a perfect fit for her goals: “I love community service, so this really felt right up my alley.”
South Pasadena supporters came out to root for Feldman, including family friend Emilia Aldana and her young daughter, Gabby, for whom the Rose princess frequently babysits. Describing Feldman as “a leader, extremely confident” and someone who “has always worked really, really hard,” Aldana retold an anecdote about the young woman on the tennis court.
“There was an incident at a tennis match where CPR was needed, and because of her consistent Girl Scout CPR training that she did, she knew how to step in and intervene and provide the necessary care and then even calmed the parent of the afflicted child,” Aldana recounted. “She had it all under control, and that really describes Ava in a nutshell.”
Alongside Feldman, Samantha Molina represented SPHS among the 29 finalists for the Royal Court.
Going forward, members of the 2022 Royal Court will serve as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community and the Greater Los Angeles area and will each receive a $7,500 scholarship. Court members experience a list of benefits, becoming part of an organization dedicated to hands-on volunteerism, discovering opportunities to connect with and give back to the local community, developing public speaking skills and growing their self-confidence.
The 2022 group will ride down Colorado Boulevard on the Royal Court float in the 133rd Rose Parade and attend the 108th Rose Bowl Game, both on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022.
The announcement and coronation of the 103rd Rose Queen and presentation of the 2022 Royal Court will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 26, on the front lawn of the Tournament House.