A century ago, a 17-year-old Portland railroad office clerk became queen.
That was Thelma Hollingsworth, the first to be elected queen of the Portland Rose Festival. It cost a penny to buy 10 votes, and she won with more than 2 million nods. Now, 100 years later, a Clark College freshman is hoping to wear her crown.
Adeena Wade of Battle Ground is one of three teens vying to portray Queen Thelma in the festival’s Grand Floral Parade on June 7. Just as it was in 1914, voters will cast pennies to pick their choice, with the money going to the Knight Cancer Challenge.
Voting began May 10 following the Vaudeville Rose Variety Show, where Wade and the other finalists — Marisa Pieper of Wilsonville, Ore., and Shelby Hansmann of Portland — took the stage as Hollingsworth, the “Queen of Rosaria.” Votes are being accepted in the CityFair Museum at Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The winner will get a $1,000 scholarship, and the other two will each get $500.
“When the voting started, my family had filled up the jar a third of the way,” Wade said. “They brought bags of pennies.”
Growing up, Wade had fantasized about being a Rose Festival princess, but that wasn’t an option because of where she lived. But she’s still been involved. This year, along with participating in the Living History Program, she’s helping with the Battle Ground Grand Floral Parade float.
“I’ve always loved the Portland Rose Festival,” she said. “I just thought it would be really cool to be involved in such a big moment in history.”
Wade heard about the competition on Facebook and quickly made a YouTube video for her audition. Last month, she was thrilled to discover she’d made the cut.
“I just freaked out. I had to stay quiet because I was at work,” she said. “I didn’t think I would get it at all because I do live in Battle Ground. I was so surprised.”
Queen Thelma, who died in 1984, stayed involved with the event for much of her life. Wade has learned a lot about the beloved woman since she first jumped into the competition.
“I heard she was a very energetic lady and that she was very conservative,” she said. “I heard she was an awesome lady.”
Though only one will win, Wade said she and her two competitors have become good friends. The trio will ride together — in character — on an illuminated float in the May 31 Starlight Parade in downtown Portland. They’ll stop in front of TV cameras during the ride, and the results will be announced live on television.
Even if she’s not picked, Wade said she’ll still be at the Grand Floral Parade, proudly walking alongside the Battle Ground float.
“Winning would just be the icing on the cake,” she said.
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