Amy Parrish knows a Lilac Queen when she sees one.
Parrish, the 1985 Spokane Lilac Festival Queen, encouraged Central Valley High School senior Brett Rountree to try out for the Lilac princess court.
Rountree took that advice, and on Sunday, she was crowned the 2013 Lilac Queen at a coronation ceremony at the Bing Crosby Theater.
“She’s genuine,” said Parrish, who knows Rountree because they both attend Redeemer Lutheran Church. “She’s beautiful inside and out.”
Rountree said she “had a rock in her stomach” as she waited for results to be announced.
“It means that I get the opportunity to continue serving Spokane, and that means a lot to me,” Rountree said. She plans to study chemical engineering at Washington State University.
Fourteen high school seniors competed for queen in several events over the past few months. The last exercise that was considered in the judging was a two-minute speech each young woman wrote, memorized and presented at the coronation.
Rountree spoke about a mission trip she took three summers ago in Africa and witnessing a famished girl carrying a newborn on her back. Rountree collected soccer balls and uniforms that were given out on her trip. She talked about how important it is to “invest in the human soul” through money, love and care.
The other six princesses named to the Lilac Festival Court were:
• Katie Heitkemper of Lewis and Clark High School.
• Hailey Hyde of Saint George’s School.
• Devyn Russell of Northwest Christian High School.
• Emily Staker of Gonzaga Preparatory School.
• Savannah Sundseth of Mead High School.
• Michelle Tatko of Ferris High School.
Each princess receives a $1,500 scholarship. As the queen, Rountree earned an additional $1,500 scholarship. The court will represent Spokane at the festival’s annual Armed Forces Torchlight Parade on May 18.
Every high school in Spokane County is eligible to present a candidate for the court. This year, 19 schools participated, said festival President Christine Leva. In November, judges chose 14 to compete in the coronation ceremony.
Leva said winners were based in part on community service participations organized by the festival, their resumes, interviews with judges on Saturday, and the two-minute speeches they presented to festival organizers on Thursday and again to judges on Saturday.
Last year’s princesses and queen traveled to China, volunteered in orphanages and visited one of Spokane’s sister cities, Jilin.
This year’s court will visit Limerick, Ireland, another of Spokane’s sister cities, along with Spokane Mayor David Condon, in June.
Condon, who will pay for his own trip, has chosen the Spokane Lilac Festival to be the beneficiary of his mayoral ball, the “Our Town Gala.” He said he chose the festival, in part, because it’s celebrating its 75th anniversary. The gala will be held Feb. 15 at Gonzaga Prep.
“I don’t think there is an event in Spokane that connects better with our history than the Lilac Festival,” Condon said. “These ladies are our future leaders.”
Condon hosted his first gala last year and said it would become an annual event. More than 400 people attended the gala, which raised more than $20,000 for the Chase Youth Foundation. He said he expects to equal or surpass last year’s attendance and proceeds.
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