Voices

Lilac royalty nominees dig into classes, community

It’s been 70 years since Shannon (Mahoney) Mitchell was selected as Spokane’s first Lilac queen.

This year, a new batch of candidates are vying for the chance to wear the purple robe and sparkling crown. The Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade is May 15.

“They’re the best group of girls we’ve ever had,” said Elisabeth Hooker, vice president of royalty at the Spokane Lilac Festival.

At the coronation ceremony Sunday, this year’s 13 candidates will be escorted to the stage by members of the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Army to celebrate this year’s Spokane Lilac Festival theme, “Freedom is Not Free.” Each candidate will speak on the topic of freedom.

One of the candidates will be selected queen and six will be selected as princesses.

New to this year’s candidates, each received a sash with the name of their high school embroidered on it. Hooker said that it was the festival’s way of bringing the connection to the high schools back into the festival.

Classes the candidates have taken include etiquette, leadership, conflict resolution and military protocol. In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, they have been polishing their speeches, presenting awards at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and making other appearances around the city.

Along with the chance to win several scholarships, each princess and the queen receives a tiara to keep. The queen also gets a larger crown to wear at events during her reign, but must pass it on to the next queen in a year.

“I’ve liked all the candidates in the past,” Hooker said. “But this year it will be hard to pick.”

Here are the North Side candidates:

Jen Choi, 17, Mead High School

Q. Have you always wanted to be a Lilac queen or princess?

A. While watching the Lilac Parade when I was young, I always admired the Lilac royalty. They were beautiful and full of poise and I became interested in being one. I had no idea how at the time, but I knew it was something I wanted to try.

Q. Where are you planning to attend college?

A. My dream would be to go to the East Coast because I have never been there. I want to go somewhere new for college.

Q. What local resident would you like to have lunch with? Why? Where would you eat?

A. I would love to have lunch with any heart surgeon in Spokane. My dream is to become a heart surgeon so the opportunity to spend time with a real heart surgeon would really help me. Sacred Heart’s cafeteria would be a good place to have lunch because it is in a hospital.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a candidate for the royal court?

A. My favorite thing is that I meet so many new people. The people skills I have learned so far will be really useful for me in the future.

Q. What is your favorite joke?

A. My favorite joke is when my AP government teacher talks about incumbents serving their constituents. He proceeds to sing an old Janet Jackson song that says, “What have you done for me lately?” Then he cues us to sing the “ooh ooh ooh yeah” part. When we successfully sing our part, he begins cackling like a madman. It’s great.

Heyley Hill, 18, Northwest Christian

Q. Have you always wanted to be a Lilac queen or princess?

A. No, not always, but the more I learned about the Lilac program, the more I felt compelled to be part of it.

Q. Where are you planning to attend college?

A. I am hoping to attend one of the following: Pepperdine University, Seattle Pacific University, Wheaton College or the Master’s College.

Q. What local resident would you like to have lunch with? Why? Where would you go?

A. Whitworth professor Jerry Sittser because I would love to sit, listen and soak up a portion of his wisdom. We would go to Chaps, of course! It is my favorite breakfast and lunch place.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a candidate for the royal court?

A. I love the community service experiences provided, such as Santa Express and working at First Night and with the Salvation Army. Also, presenting Skate America awards!

Q. Tell me your favorite joke.

A. I would love to! This is my signature joke: Why do melons always have big weddings? Because they cantaloupe!

Katrina Knizek, 16, Shadle Park

Q. Have you always wanted to be a Lilac queen or princess?

A. Ever since moving here.

Q. Where are you planning to attend college?

A. Washington State University or Eastern Washington University

Q. What local resident would you like to have lunch with? Why? Where would you go?

A. Mayor Mary Verner, because she is a strong female leader; at Dick’s Hamburgers, of course.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a candidate for the royal court?

A. All of the life lessons we learn and making new friends.

Q. Tell me your favorite joke?

A. What do you call four bullfighters in quicksand? Quatro sink-o.

Ciara Mielke, 17, North Central

Q. Have you always wanted to be a Lilac queen or princess?

A. Not always. There was a time when I was intimidated by the princesses in their gowns and wondered if I was worthy. Once I found out the true meaning behind Lilac royalty, beyond the beautiful dresses, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I have found the experience to be extremely rewarding and don’t want it to end!

Q. Where do you plan to attend college?

A. I am hoping to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. If I’m not accepted, I’m considering taking a gap year for a mission trip overseas.

Q. What local resident would you like to have lunch with? Why? Where would you go?

A. Ryan Crocker, former United States ambassador to Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon, on the balcony at Anthony’s. What an incredible (and extremely difficult) job.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a candidate for the royal court?

A. Meeting incredible people! Not just the rest of the Fab 14 (who I doubt I would have met under other circumstances …), but also the Lilac directors and family, all of whom are genuinely amazing people. It’s also been a lot of fun meeting other community volunteers through organizations like the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery and U.S. Figure Skating.

Q. Tell me your favorite joke.

A. Anything that comes on the back of a Laffy Taffy wrapper and is horribly unfunny: “What do sneezes wear on their feet? Ahh-shoes.”

Larae Stotts, 17, Mt. Spokane

Q. Have you always wanted to be a Lilac queen or princess?

A. No, I have not always wanted to be a Lilac princess. Well, at least not until the last few months.

Q. Where do you plan to attend college?

A. I have been accepted to Whitworth University. I also applied to Gonzaga University and Western Washington University. I would love nothing more than to study at Western. It would give me an excellent reason to expand my raincoat/rain boot collection!

Q. What local resident would you like to have lunch with? Why? Where would you go?

A. I had no idea who to have lunch with locally until I was watching “American Idol” and the commercial break brought a sudden epiphany. Mayor Mary Verner’s blood donation rap convinced me that she was the only candidate! Mary Verner and I should exchange beats over a calzone at Tomato Street … I have a rap of my own on my answering machine.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a candidate for the royal court?

A. My favorite thing about being a candidate for the royal court is the people. I am a people person, and all of the people involved in the Lilac Festival Association are just splendid.

Q. Tell me your favorite joke.

A. What did Snoop Dogg say when his friend got him a sweater for Christmas? “G U Knit?”



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