‘Smile’! Tryouts begin for Pasadena’s 2024 Rose Queen and Royal Court

It’s not easy to think of a hashtag for all of this, she says, motioning to the façade of the historic Tournament of Roses House on Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena.

But applicant No. 372, Eden of La Salle High School, said she is just #happy to be at the preliminary tryouts for the 105th Rose Queen and Court on Saturday.

“My family has lived in Pasadena for a long time, and it’s a tradition to try out,” she said. “The city is beautiful and historic and I’d love to showcase that. Also, I know this experience will teach me a lot.”

The 300 hopefuls get 15 seconds to answer one question from the selection committee. They are called only by their candidate number throughout the four rounds of interviews continuing in the next four weeks. Seven among their ranks will make it to the 2024 Royal Court, with their names announced on Oct. 2.

If you grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, this is a rite of passage, many candidates said.

To be eligible, applicants must identify as a female, be at least 17 years old by Dec. 31 and not older than 21 before Jan. 5, 2024. They must be a full-time resident of the Pasadena Area Community College District and hold at least a 2.0 grade point average. Candidates must be seniors in high school or enrolled as full-time students in an accredited school or college in the Pasadena Area Community College District.

Most of the young women in line Saturday said the audition process was exciting and stomach-turning at the same time. They admired each other’s shoes and dresses and wished each other luck as they moved along the process.

Since the judging continues beyond Saturday, we agreed not to publish the applicants’ full names to preserve anonymity until the winners are selected.

In the mansion’s library, the applicants met former Rose Court members, who gave advice, answered questions and soothed nerves.

Rose Queen Camille Kennedy of Pasadena, who wore the crown in 2020, said she still remembers her applicant number, 410.

“Just be yourself,” she told the crowd. “Smile even though you’re super nervous. Look around. Acknowledge everyone. And remember, even just interviewing is a wonderful experience and will serve you well.”

Michelle Cortez-Peralta from last year’s Rose Court said she remembers many details of riding down Colorado Boulevard for the 134th Rose Parade on Jan. 2. But what she loves most is the “built-in sisters” she’s found in the Rose Court.

“We come from different backgrounds but we have that bond now,” the Pasadena resident said. “So enjoy your time together.”

Sahanna Rajnikanthan of Arcadia, another member of last year’s court, said she doesn’t remember much of the parade and Rose Bowl game.

“I remember the feeling and I think that’s what you’ll hold on to forever,” she said.

Alex Aghajanian, president of the Tournament of Roses, said the selection committee is looking for individuals with public speaking skills, academic achievement, leadership abilities and community and school involvement.

“I hope they get a sense of giving back from this, but most of all, we want them to have a wonderful time, to enjoy this time and have fun with it,” Aghajanian said. “They’re going to be great representatives.”

Candidates were later treated to tours of the 1906 Tournament House, former home of the Wrigley family of chewing gum fame. They visited the Queen’s Room, with photos of past Queens and Courts, admiring a black and white photo of the first Queen, 1905’s Hallie Woods. On the mansion’s front lawn, they visited with dogs from the Pasadena Humane Society, met with representatives from local nonprofits, took photos and gathered gift bags to take home.

The long line of hopefuls is proof the Rose Queen crown has not lost its luster through the years.

“It shows a lot of people still believe in the tradition of Queen and Court,” Aghajanian said.

Jade of Pasadena High School tapped her No. 354 badge after her interview.

“I felt like I forgot half of what I wanted to say,” she said. “So I was a five in terms of nervousness, but I give this overall experience a 10. I told myself going in to just live in the moment, get through the next 10 seconds. Now that it’s over, I’m cautiously optimistic, but no matter what, I know I’ll be okay.”

Related links

Here’s how to get a free tour of Pasadena’s Tournament House
Rose Queen Bella Ballard and her court cheered as Rose Parade rolls out into 2023
Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses reveals 2023 Royal Court finalists
18 Equestrian units selected for Tournament of Roses 135th Rose Parade
Torrance picks West High student’s design for its 2024 Rose Parade entry

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