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 was Eunice Kim of Curtis.
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. Carly Lange of Sumner was voted Miss Congeniality by the rest of the royal court.
Kim, who plans to attend college in Seattle and become a pharmacist, began her speech with the opening lines to the Journey song on which the theme was based.
“Just a small-town girl,” she sang, “living in a lonely world; she took the midnight train going anywhere.”
Kim went on to explain that as a pastor’s daughter, she was raised to be prim and proper, “but then this girl went to Curtis High School, (where) they embraced me for me.”
She added that the faith of her teachers and peers made her have faith in herself.
“Thank you for believing in me; and helping me find the courage to believe in myself,” she said.
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?
Kim said that the experience has brought her out of her “small-town bubble” and introduced her to new people and visions. And she gave special acknowledgement to her fellow Daffodil Princesses.
“These are the sisters I didn’t choose, but it kind of works out,” she said. “They each bring something to this yellow family.”
The event was emceed by Chris Eagan 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.