MARYSVILLE — The Marysville Strawberry Festival crowned its Senior and Junior Royalty Courts during its annual April Friesner Memorial Scholarship Pageant on Saturday, March 1, at its new venue in the Totem Middle School cafeteria.
Marysville Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ballew served as the evening's emcee, praising the commitment and hard work of not only all four Senior Royalty candidates, but also all six Junior Royalty candidates, even as he noted that their respective numbers would need to be narrowed down to three each.
Josette Wicker, a junior at Marysville Getchell High School's Bio-Med Academy, kicked off the Senior Royalty candidates' succession of "favorite outfits" with a black dress that represented her weight loss efforts over the course of the past two years.
"I'd lost 60 pounds, but when I saw this dress, I didn't know if it would fit," Wicker said. "When I was able to zip it all the way up, my confidence grew tremendously."
Wicker credited her move to Marysville, from her former hometown of Vancouver, Wash., with bringing her closer to her family, and with connecting her to teachers who saw the potential leader inside the shy young woman she used to be.
"My involvement in ASB has given me a stronger outlook on life," Wicker said.
Rigo Perez, a junior at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, admitted to crying when he started first grade in Marysville, having just moved from Everett at the time, but noted that a few of the kids he became friends with that year had also shed tears during that first day of school. He acknowledged that his struggles in school hadn't ended there, and credited his middle school teachers with working with him to get him on track to succeed in high school.
"I followed my brother into wrestling," Perez said, before modeling his "favorite outfit," which included running sweats and his wrestling singlet. "I love being active, and being part of M-P wrestling is about dedication. I love representing Marysville as a wrestler, and I want to do it as part of the Strawberry Festival."
M-PHS senior Brianne King also sported athletic gear for her "favorite outfit," in her case for track, from her letterman's jacket displaying her accomplishments, to the sweats she trains in, that she will never throw out in spite out their holes, down to her neon, gold-soled track cleats.
"I want people to be able to tell who I am when I'm out there," King said. "Track is my passion. We all should have passions that drive us."
King expressed equal enthusiasm for her lifelong home of Marysville, recalling how she grew up close enough to Jennings Park to go sledding down its hills during snow days. She extolled not only local services such as the Marysville YMCA, but also events like the Strawberry Festival itself, for bringing together the community.
Karalyn Demarest, another junior at M-PHS, rounded out the four Senior Royalty candidates by showcasing her pride in Marysville-Pilchuck, not only by wearing her Tomahawks cheerleading ensemble as her "favorite outfit," but also by pointing out how much she enjoys talking with M-P alumni about how much the school has changed since its inception in 1971.
"When I tried out, I did my best front handspring and landed on my tush," said Demarest, whom nonetheless made the cheerleading squad. "I love my teams and want to show my pride in them."
Demarest also loves the diversity of the Marysville community, citing her own mixed Filipino and Caucasian heritage.
"We all come from different backgrounds," Demarest said. "At the same time, we can all get together for events like the Strawberry Festival, no matter what our backgrounds."
After the Junior Royalty candidates had introduced themselves, Ballew kept the Senior Royalty candidates on their toes by asking them randomly chosen questions. When asked what he would do with $10 million to solve a world problem, Perez identified homelessness as a pressing need, empathizing with those "who just want the same things we take for granted," before he drew laughter from the crowd by admitting that he'd probably keep $9 million for himself.
"My biggest influence is my mom, who is also my biggest supporter," Demarest said. "She's always encouraged me to do my best, and even though she had me when she was young, she made every effort to make my life great. I hope I turn out just like her."
When asked how the Marysville community has influenced her, Wicker not only reiterated the leadership roles and closeness to her family that it's afforded her, but also cited her increased desire to help out others, including through stints at the Marysville Community Food Bank, as evidence that her hometown has "made me a better person."
Ballew asked King to assess both the positives and negatives of her public education to date. While she reiterated the role that track has played in her development, she also voiced concern for students who are bullied or otherwise struggling, "because they need help, and they need to know that there's not anything wrong with pursuing a different learning style."
Wicker and Perez tied for the Congeniality Award, which was voted on by the candidates themselves, before the Senior and Junior Royalty Courts were finally named.
Gabrielle Olson of Marysville Middle School joined fellow sixth-graders Cassie Snyder and Alexa Mendoza, of Cedarcrest Middle School, in being named the princesses of the Junior Royalty Court, while the Marysville Strawberry Festival Senior Royalty Court for 2014 consists of Princess Brianne King, Prince Rigo Perez and Queen Karalyn Demarest.