There were future doctors, nurses, lawyers, a wedding planner – and an aspiring President of the United States. Each decked out in a formal yellow dress; a bouquet of daffodils clutched in her hand and a tiara in her hair.
And on an overcast March night, they all had a single goal in mind: To become the queen.
Sarah Karamoko of Henry Foss High School bested 23 other senior girls from high schools in Pierce County to be named 2012 Daffodil Queen on Friday night at Life Center in Tacoma. Among the candidates were Carly Lange of Sumner, Megan McBarron of White River and Angela Crone of Bonney Lake.
The Daffodil Princesses were judged on academic standing, personality, attitude, speaking ability, appearance, sociability, content of their minute-long prepared speech, festival awareness and impromptu speaking.
In her winning speech, Karamoko, who moved to Washington from the Ivory Coast of Africa five years ago, said that she was ridiculed by her peers for her inability to speak English. From then on, it was her top priority to learn the language, and within a year of taking on the challenge, she passed an English proficiency test.
She never stopped believing, she said emotionally, touching on the festival’s 2012 theme, “Don’t Stop Believing”.
But when her name was announced as winner, Karamoko’s eyes widened in shock. She could hardly believe it – even as the crown and robe were bestowed upon her and she took her place at the microphone to address the cheering crowd.
“Hi, Mom,” she said tearfully, waving at the beaming woman with whom she was reunited when she arrived in America in 2007. “I love you!”
First runner-up was Jasmine Heindel of Spanaway Lake, and second runner-up was Savannah Fry of Stadium. Lange was voted Miss Congeniality by the rest of the royal court.
In her speech, Lange, who plans to study pediatric nursing at the University of Washington, asked the audience if they remembered what it was like to be a child.
“The magic? The believing?” she said. “That child in you never left. You just have to believe – and once you do, don’t stop.”
Crone, an aspiring veterinarian who plans to attend Washington State University, compared her senior year to an ice-cream sundae.
“My academics are the ice cream; being a Daffodil Princess is the whipped cream; and, if I were to be selected as queen, that would be the cherry on top.”
McBarron, who is White River’s first-ever Daffodil Princess and plans to attend Brigham Young University to study dance, said that to her, the theme means not giving up faith.
“I had to push myself to keep believing,” she said of her days in club gymnastics, which she said did not come to her naturally. “If we want to succeed in challenging situations in life, we must keep believing that we can.”
All 24 girls answered the same impromptu question: Throughout your time with the Daffodil Festival, what experience has influenced you the most and how has it changed you?
Lange said that seeing the sparkle in the children’s eyes when they visited the Boys & Girls Club meant a lot.
“The love and admiration they have for us makes this so worth it,” she said.
McBarron felt similarly about the Buckley Reads program, where she spent time with a little girl.
“What I’m doing – I’m touching the lives of those in my own community,” she said.
The event was emceed by Chris Egan of KING-5 TV and Brittney Henry, the reigning Miss Washington. Before the queen was crowned, 2011 Queen Claire Flemming, a Curtis graduate, gave her farewell speech and asked for whomever was to be her successor to live with “a servant’s heart.”
As winner, Karamoko received $6,000 in scholarships, and each member of her court will get a $1,000 scholarship through the Daffodil Foundation.
The Daffodil Festival started in 1933 as a tribute to the Puyallup Valley Flower industry and has grown to be one of the largest festivals and parades in the nation. Karamoko and her court are the festival’s official ambassadors. The Grand Floral Parade, which travels through Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner and Orting, is April 14.