First published in the Dec. 31 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
Walking three blocks down to Orange Grove Boulevard from her South Pasadena home to watch the Rose Parade floats line up on New Year’s Eve is a fond tradition Ava Feldman has participated in nearly her entire life.
Sometimes the festivities wouldn’t end at midnight for Feldman, but resume hours later at 5 a.m., when her father would wake her up to get another glimpse of the floats before they proceeded to the parade route.
This year, the same girl who grew up admiring the floats as a child will be riding atop one as a Rose Princess with her fellow Royal Court members — a reality that still seems surreal to Feldman, 17, who is excited to take in the final experiences of what she and her newfound “friends for life” consider to be the first stop of their Pasadena Tournament of Roses farewell tour.
“I’m extremely excited for parade day,” Feldman said, who is a senior at South Pasadena High School. “Everyone keeps telling me that I need to take a mental snapshot as soon as we turn onto TV corner and look down the hill and see all of Pasadena cheering us on. I’m looking forward to that moment and experiencing this with six girls that I can’t imagine not having in my life.”
What started with a group hug at the beginning of their Rose Court term four months ago has grown into love, Feldman said.
“We’re more than best friends, we’re sisters now, bonded for life,” she said. “We owe it all to the Tournament, because a lot of us would have never met each other otherwise. We’ve grown together and uplift each other. I’m super grateful to the Tournament for giving me six new sisters. We talk every day even when we don’t have events, and I think that’s really important, because it just shows that yes, we’re here for the community and to serve, but also we’re getting something so special out of this that is irreplaceable — sisterhood.”
Feldman is still in the process of submitting college applications. She is pursuing an educational path to become a child psychologist, a pursuit found in the passion she has fostered through her own community service projects as a Girl Scout and National Charity League member, in which she has given back to Families Forward and Arroyo Vista Middle School by developing a website for 3rd-graders that supplied educational videos, as well as the implementation of a mentorship program she formed in collaboration with SPHS.
Although her goal is serving children, Feldman said she appreciates the opportunity to expand her reach in different directions, thanks to her wide-ranging duties as a member of the Royal Court.
“Being a princess is a different kind of community service, because through the Tournament, I’ve been exposed to so many wonderful organizations that I probably wouldn’t have worked with,” Feldman said. “It’s also a lot more in-person service, so I really get to witness the impact I’m having on people and see their smiles light up because we’ve just made their day. Some people will even tell us, ‘This is the highlight of our week.’”
Feldman and the Rose Court have been scheduled for about 100 events and opportunities to serve since the start of their reign. As she reflects on her experience so far, the princess said she has learned a lot about herself in the process.
“I have definitely become more confident as a public speaker and as a friend and a person in my community,” Feldman said. “I have learned that I’m capable of way more than I give myself credit for, in that I definitely have the ability to make a firsthand impact on other people’s lives.
“I think a lot of people in the Pasadena area, including myself — before being on the Royal Court — kind of viewed it as pageantry and that they were there for appearances and show,” she added. “I’ve definitely gotten a better understanding that the Royal Court is really there to be role models for the children of the Pasadena area. We are there to show there is hope for the future.”
Soon her Royal Court days will be behind her, but for now, she is still trying to soak it all in.
“I’m definitely going to have withdrawals from being without my Royal Court family after being at so many events together, but I’m also going to incredibly miss the opportunity to speak with everyone that I’ve met in Pasadena,” Feldman said. “I’ve had amazing conversations, and learned so much about people and their lives, many who I may not have met outside of this opportunity.”