Sunday, June 14, 2009

Want to be a Princess?

Portland's Northeast Sacramento Street home to 5 Rose Festival princesses, 1 queen

by Lisa Grace Lednicer, The Oregonian
Friday June 12, 2009, 8:32 PM

Lisa Grace Lednicer/The OregonianRachel Seeman, the current Rose Festival queen, grew up on Northeast Sacramento Street and admired her princess predecessors from the block. She went to Amanda Stutevoss' bridal shower and Leslie Wenzinger's wedding.
Here's a tip for girls who dream of becoming Rose Festival princesses: Tell your parents to move. Specifically, to the 7500 block of Northeast Sacramento Street.

That particular stretch of the Roseway neighborhood has produced five Rose Festival princesses over the years, including last week's queen. All the young women at one time lived within tiara-flinging range of each other.

With that track record, 2009 Queen Rachel Seeman was destined to become part of the Rose Festival court, said her dad, Dan.

"I tell ya, those other princesses are very proud of her," he said.

Throughout Rose Festival history, there have been multi-generational princesses within one family, two sisters who were queens in different years and one girl who was voted junior court queen (back when the festival had a junior court) and then Rose Festival queen a few years later.

Joan Arnold, Madison High princess, 1959
But no one at festival headquarters could think of another instance of multiple princesses from one small block.

"Must be something in the water there, huh?" mused Rich Jarvis, the festival's public relations director. "It's cool for the neighborhood."

The Northeast Sacramento Street dynasty began in 1959, when Joan Arnold was crowned Madison High's princess. Then, after a prolonged dry spell, Amanda Stutevoss was crowned Benson High's princess in 1999. Aubrey Isom was crowned Madison's princess the same year.

In 2000, Leslie Wenzinger was crowned Madison's princess. And this spring, Seeman became Grant High's princess and then queen.

Aubrey Isom, Madison High princess, 1999
"Admiring them growing up, I wanted to be just like them," Seeman said, sitting in a living room crowded with rose bouquets, ribbons and other souvenirs. "They were real to us. They were the girls next door, but they happened to be outstanding individuals."

Note to Portlanders who smell a conspiracy: There is none. This isn't a case of stage mother mania gone amok or festival favoritism. The only edge the girls had was occasional advice on speeches and outfits from princess parents on the block.

The young women describe Northeast Sacramento Street as an unusually friendly place, even by Portland standards. The street overlooks the Rose City Golf Course and most of the homes are 1950s-style ranches, with lush lawns and American flags. Neighbors talk fondly of poker games, potlucks and yearly block parties.

"It's a wonderful place to live and raise children in," said Carrie Moses, the street's unofficial mayor. "It's like living in a small town. People take care of each other and really get to know each other."

Amanda Stutevoss, Benson High princess, 1999
They also tend to stay put. Arnold's mother still lives in the house where she raised her daughter. When Isom's family moved out of their home, the Wenzingers moved in.

Growing up, the princesses formed a tight-knit sorority. Stutevoss and Isom played on the same softball team; Isom and Wenzinger played on the same soccer team.

It was a relief that Isom and Stutevoss went to different high schools because they didn't have to run against each other for princess honors.

"As it turned out, we both got it, and it was fantastic," Stutevoss said. "Aubrey and I had each other, and it was like a security blanket."

And when they won, one little girl took note.

Seeman, 7 at the time, lived across the street from Stutevoss and brought over flowers and a congratulatory card. Her brother, Ross, made Stutevoss a crown out of blue construction paper.

Leslie Wenzinger, Madison High princess, 2000
Last week, when Seeman was named queen, she said she had wanted the title since the year Stutevoss and Isom won.

Recently, another little girl moved to the neighborhood, raising the possibility that the dynasty will continue. "Who knows?" Seeman pondered. "Maybe in 14 years ..."

And in case that fails, there are at least two houses for sale nearby.

Just call me to see my listing... and your daughter might be the next princess!

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