The Tournament of Roses' Royal Court travels as a unit.
The seven young women crowd into a van together and head for Christmas tree lightings, community events and hospital visits. Always in matching outfits, sometimes linking arms.
The queen and six princesses were chosen in October, and since then have made appearance after appearance around the region. On Friday morning, they dropped by Arroyo Vista Elementary School in South Pasadena as students presented the annual Tournament of States Parade, hauling miniature floats across a school lawn.
The girls moved through the crowd of students, posing for pictures and leaning down to study the detail of the floats representing different states. California floats featured the Hollywood sign and the Golden Gate Bridge. One Florida design boosted a crate of real oranges. A NASA-themed Texas float held a miniature space shuttle Endeavour.
Vanessa Manjarrez, the 17-year-old Mayfield Senior School student who is the 95th Rose Queen, asked a group of students huddled around her if anyone wanted a sticker bearing the Tournament of Roses logo. Hands shot up. She pulled out a sheet from a black quilted purse and handed out the stickers until they were gone.
“I think I ran out,” she told a group of waiting students.
In case students had any trouble distinguishing Vanessa from the other six girls dressed in black jeans, boots and patterned blazers, each member of the court wore a pin bearing her name.
In addition to Vanessa, the court includes Kate Benuska, 17, of Maranatha High School; Tracy Cresta, 17, of La Salle High School; Victoria McGregor, 17, of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy; Nicole Nelam, 17, of Pasadena High School; Sonia Shenoi, 17, of San Marino High School; and Madison Teodo, 17, of La Cañada High School.
After students showed off their designs, the court watched the parade from front-row seats. When it ended, Tournament officials quickly escorted the princesses into a van and took them back to their schools. They were done for the day. The queen was not.
Vanessa was whisked to Tournament House in Pasadena, where she changed into a tailored red cocktail dress and black high heels.
She had to work a room solo during a luncheon for past Rose queens. Margaret Main, the 1940 Rose Queen, and Sally Rubsamen, who was queen in 1941, stopped to chat with Vanessa before lunch.
“She's just darling, she's precious,” said Main, who at 91 is the oldest living Rose Queen. “And I said [to Rubsamen], ‘Dammit, she's so slim!'”
At the end of the luncheon, Vanessa was upbeat and talkative, apparently unfazed by the day's events.
Her reserve of energy might come from years of dancing. The Pasadena native started taking classes at age 3 and has practiced ballet, hip-hop and Basque folk dancing.
“I don't like sitting still,” she said. “It's an escape.”
When the Tournament presented her with a personalized book full of advice from previous queens, she expressed sincere gratitude.
“Wow, thank you, that's incredible,” she said.
Minutes later, as she was paging through it, she still seemed amazed. “It's gorgeous,” she said.
But she could only admire it briefly before Tournament officials came to collect her for a photo shoot with the previous queens.
It was her last appearance for the day. When she got home that night, she said, she planned to finish her homework, apply to colleges and maybe watch a movie.