“I can’t believe I’m the girl you always see on the float!” Rose Queen Erika Winter said in an interview with atombash.com. “Sometimes it flashes in a moment, I can’t believe this is happening.” Queen Erika is the 98th Rose Queen and will ride atop the Queen and Court float in the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade. Meanwhile, she and other six young women on the Royal Court will make some 100 appearances, representing the Tournament of Roses and the City of Pasadena, and serving as role models for kids coming up.
Queen Erika said several events had meant a lot to her, but one she especially enjoyed was the annual visit of the Royal Court to Monte Vista Grove Homes, a Pasadena community for retired Presbyterian clergy and church workers. She shared, “They said, ‘It is one of the biggest events of the year for us.’ They put on a whole thing for us.” Erika enjoyed the men’s chorus rendition of “Oklahoma” with lyrics written for the occasion and was touched by the blessings Executive Director Debbie Herbert created. She said, “They researched our first and middle names and put them into a blessing which was really, really sweet.”
Another memory-maker was dressing up with the Royal Court as minions from the Despicable Me movies and visiting Huntington Memorial Hospital at Halloween. The girls had fun seeing the smiles of the pediatric patients, some in costumes, trick-or-treating around the hospital for toys and goodies. “It’s important for children to have someone to look up to…to motivate themselves,” Erika said when we spoke following her coronation.
A role model
She said that as a younger student at Flintridge Preparatory School, she looked up to the juniors and seniors, including 2012 Rose Princess Kimberly Ostiller. “All the girls [on the court] are just hoping to be like that for everyone.” She stresses that it’s important for girls to be themselves and to be confident in that. She emphasized that the selection of the Royal Court is not a beauty pageant, contrary to what some may think. Each princess has special talents and confidence in her own individuality.
One of Erika’s many talents is music. She played the role of Liesl in her school’s spring musical, Sound of Music, which is one of her favorite things. She said it was especially exciting to sing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” with her best friend, because at the time she was 16 going on 17.
As a member of the Royal Court, Queen Erika’s time is stretched pretty thin, and she has had to cut back on some of the activities she had been involved in. With the energy of 17-going-on-18, though, she said “I’m surprised that I get to keep up with as much as I do.” She attended two student meetings before we talked last Wednesday afternoon, one with Flintridge Prep middle-schoolers. “The 7th graders are so excited that I’m the Queen, so that’s what I talk about. They are telling everyone who I am,” she said.
She has had to cut back on one of her favorite activities, the cheer and dance team, which requires a big time commitment. Erika has been a dancer since she was a tot, and she imparts her enthusiasm to a special class she works with at Lineage Performing Arts Center in Pasadena. The class is comprised of autistic children ages 4 to 15. Since the students range all across the spectrum, she keeps the class simple. Some can express their likes and dislikes or their music preferences and others can’t.
“It is one of the most incredible community service projects for me,” she said. “Parents sit there and read, are able to sit back and relax, smiling. It’s 45 minutes off for them so they can relax.” After class, parents tell Erika how grateful they are for the break.
Erika and her family, mom Kris Knutsen and dad Tim Winter, are keeping a scrapbook to preserve those memories, at the suggestion of past Rose Queens who offer support and advice to the newest member of their exclusive club. “They all say it’s really great and to appreciate every moment. Take a step back and let it sink in, because it goes so fast.”
After the crunch is over, when Erika goes off to one of the many colleges she is considering, she will study to be a fashion marketing dynamo, combining her interest in fashion, communications, marketing and psychology.
She said, “I have always loved fashion and the fashion industry. When I was younger, my parents say I had a knack for it.” She keeps up with the business by reading magazines, but creating fashions herself is not her forte. “I can’t draw, I’m awful at drawing, I can’t even draw stick figures,” she said. “I think I’m very creative. Marketing allows me to figure out what the public is interested in and what would sell. Psychology keys into marketing because I want to know what people want, what makes them do what they do.”
The theme of the 127th Rose Parade is “Find Your Adventure,” a maxim that is appropriate for the 2016 Royal Court, Erika said. “What our message is from the group, the Royal Court, is what we’re all about. We’re all about chasing our dream of adventure, finding our own adventure. We want girls to be confident, to find who they are.”
If you have a question or would like a reply to your comment, please post on Facebook at All Things Rose Parade or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The theme of the 127th Rose Parade and 102nd Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2016 is “Find Your Adventure.”