PORT TOWNSEND — Two candidates for the 2023 Port Townsend Rhododendron Festival royalty court have been announced, and one will be crowned queen at a March 5 ceremony.
Melody Douglas and Paige Govia, both 17, were named as candidates by festival officials earlier this month and must now fulfill several requirements before a panel of judges declares one of them Rhododendron Queen.
Douglas — a Port Townsend resident and a home-schooled senior — and Govia — a junior at Chimacum High School who lives in Port Hadlock — are scheduled for several speaking engagements and must sell $800 worth of Rhododendron Festival pins before coronation, said Melanie Bozak, royalty training coordinator.
“Right now they’re going to be starting their speeches, their public speaking engagements,” Bozak said.
The candidates were introduced to the public at the annual Rhododendron Festival Royalty Candidates Tea on Jan. 8.
Candidates will address at least three local Rotary International clubs and one Kiwanis International Club, Bozak said, and in each of their tasks they’ll be scored by a panel of judges.
Just being named as a candidate secures a small scholarship for future education. Bozak said this year the amount awarded was increased by $500.
The candidate crowned queen will receive a scholarship of $2,000 this year, Bozak said, and the princess will get $1,500.
That money can be put toward whatever kind of education the student chooses and is available up to a year after the award is given.
The Rhody Fest has been running since 1935, generally the third week of May. It celebrates the wild rhododendrons that grow throughout Jefferson County. The Pacific Rhododendron — Rhododendron macrophyllum — was chosen as Washington’s state flower in 1959.
The festival features a parade with a themed float where members of the royal court are featured.
This year’s theme is “Wild, Wild Rhody” Bozak said.
But the local festival is just the beginning, as members of the royal court and the float will be featured in more than a dozen festivals across the state during the spring and summer.
One of the requirements royal candidates must fulfill is $1,000 in fundraising to finance travel and expenses of appearing all over the state, Bozak said.
“It’s all to market Port Townsend, to say come see us in May when we have our festival,” Bozak said.
Scholarships are open to all high school students in Jefferson County, Bozak said, and the royal court is open to boys and girls.
“We’re looking for an ambassador of the community as opposed to a pretty lady up on stage,” Bozak said.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com.