From Princess to President: Madison Riddle is Ready to Lead!

A past Princess of the 2012 Royal Court, 2023 Daffodil President Madison Riddle has returned to the Festival to lead its 90th season. On October 6th, Madison and her fellow ’12 Princess, The Buzz Blog Editor Savannah Fry, sat down to discuss the legacy behind an Alumnae President, how cute her octopus is, and name drop a whole lot of Daffodilians who helped pave the way!

Ask any of our Daffodilians, and they’ll tell you: there are plenty of stunning ways to accessorize your yellow jacket, for every possible occasion. Some choose to emblazon their blazers with Festival pins, spanning the years of their own participation, or fill their lapels with the logos of local friends at their own festival celebrations. Some will have nametags that boast lofty titles, held by members of our Executive Board. But there’s one pin that shines bright in a different way than the others: the golden Daffodil, placed over your heart at Princess Promenade, and given only to Daffodil Princesses.

Which leaves Madison Riddle with a unique conundrum: between the golden Daffodil and her brand new “Festival President” nametag, which is going to get top billing?

(And even more importantly, do you think we can convince her to wear her tiara again on Parade Day to really complete the ensemble?)

That’s right: we’ve got an Alumna President, and – to our knowledge, at least – she’s the first of her kind! With that kind of legacy driving her forward, comes a whole lot of responsibility. So, The Buzz Blog Editor Savannah Fry – herself a fellow member of the Court of 2012 – sat down to ask all of the most pressing questions about her upcoming reign… and maybe some not-so-pressing ones as well (for instance: is there any chance we might have a Giant Octopus as a Grand Marshall on Parade Day?). Read on to find out!

At the Selection for the 2012 Lakes High School Daffodil Princess, newly-crowned Princess Maddie (second from left) is all smiles with outgoing Princess Rio (left), 2010 Princess Kelly (second from right), and 2009 Princess Maili (right). [photo courtesy of Madison Riddle]

Savannah Fry: So, you started out in the Festival as a Princess in 2012, but what was your connection to the Festival like before that point?

Madison Riddle: I didn’t really have any personal connections. I had watched the three Princesses become Princesses before me – which was Maili Dellinger in ‘09, Kelly Hewitt in 2010, and Rio [Marquez-Hammitt] in ’11 – so I saw them do their Daffodil Selections, and while I thought that was really cool, I didn’t really know anything about it, other than going to the Daffodil Parade when I was young with my parents.

Would you say that what made you want to become a Princess, was this lineage that you saw come before you?

I would definitely say that. All three previous Lakes Princesses to me were fantastic, and I looked up to them a lot, so I really wanted to try it. And I think my mom really pushed me, because to me, in my head, I really thought of it like a pageant… I had no idea, of course, until afterwards, that it was not!

So once you got into the swing of things, once you started going to Princess Practices, and making connections with the other people on your Court, what were you starting to think about Daffodil? What were the primary points that you focused on, as you went into your season?

What really stood out to me was the connection to the community. I grew up in Lakewood, I was born there, and I never really ventured much out of it, of my little Lakewood bubble, and Daffodil really just exposed me to the beauty of Pierce County, and all the different types of people living here. Going to Puyallup for the first time… I mean, it’s only fifteen minutes away, but it might as well have been a foreign country, you know?

Going to Orting for the first time…

Especially going to Orting! [laughs] But then also seeing parts that I was familiar with, like Spanaway, in a different light, especially with some of the service organizations we were being exposed to, like the Shriners, or the Rotary Clubs. I basically grew up doing community service, with my parents, but it exposed me to a different part of Pierce County that I had never known existed. That part was really special to me, just the experience that I gained, and this sort of worldly knowledge… or maybe just more county knowledge?

President Madison Riddle (top row, third from left) on the job as Princess in 2012, seen here at in a photo taken at the Capitol with then-Governor Christine Gregoire. The Buzz Blog Editor Savannah Fry (top row, second from left) and Director of Communications Morgan Bernardi (bottom row, furthest left) were also members of this Court! [photo courtesy of Steve James / the Daffodil Festival]

Well our year, 2012, was also the first year the Royal Court was designated as Official Ambassadors of Pierce County. That “worldly knowledge” also took you to OTHER places…

That’s true! And we got to go down to the Capitol building for the first time… I think before the Daffodil Festival, I was just ready to graduate and go to college and do my thing, but I think the experience really made me love my hometown, and my home county, and I didn’t have that connection before. I’m very thankful for that.

At the end of your year, were you ready to go and get that college experience started? Or were you already thinking, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to come back to this later”?

I definitely knew I was going to come back. I mean, when you graduate high school, you want to go to college – Go Cougs! I went to Washington State – but I realized that when I went there, I was jealous of all the Princesses who were still local, who could still do stuff with the Festival. I left for college early, in July, when some of the other Royalty were still doing events, but my school had already started. I came back when I graduated, because I wanted to come back to Pierce County, so when I did, I definitely wanted to get back into the Festival.

I can’t remember what you graduated with… what was your degree in?

I have a biomedical engineering degree.

Amazing! So, you graduate, you come home, and you take your time building your career, and also, reinvest in the connections that you have, especially with the area around you. I believe you’re a part of a women’s business organization, too?

Yes! I first moved back to Auburn, then connected to the Daffodil Scholarship Foundation, so I was on the board for them first, and that gave me a little bit of insight into what was going on, from that side of the Festival. Then… I mean, one day I just showed up at a Selection, and said, “I’m back, and let me know how I can help.” And then pretty quickly, I think it was Judy Smith and Sue Dellinger, who said, “We need you, and we’d love for you to come back.” That was really wonderful to have those connections. Then, once I moved back to Puyallup – in the midst of the pandemic – I joined the Puyallup Sumner Chamber of Commerce Blue Scarf Society, so I have been a part of that, establishing roots here, now in my new home here in Puyallup.

So you mentioned how Judy and Sue, and Daffodilians that you had known from your Court experience, helped bring you back into the Daffodil fold. Do you think those kinds of connections to leadership were really the driving factor for wanting to be a Daffodilian yourself?

Absolutely. I think back to my time as a Princess as well, and all those yellow jackets, and their selfless service… it was so easy for them to give back to the Princesses so selflessly, and that was a big inspiration for me, that I want to repay that same favor. I want to do what the Daffodilians did for me, with their kindness and advice, leadership, as these positive adult role models in my life. I want to do that for the Courts that are coming up.

Madison Riddle at the 2022-2023 Daffodil Festival Board Installation, with her husband, Matt Riddle, and their daughter, Olivia. [photo courtesy of Jeff Ritter]

And I love that, because I think it’s notable that a lot of the alumnae we see coming back now, would say that you were that primary point of contact, for reintroducing them to the Festival. You have spent the last couple of years, taking meetings, sitting down with alumnae, talking through their experiences, and then using that feedback as concrete examples of how to move the Festival forward. Do you see that as something that has really informed your role, coming into this as President?

Absolutely. I am honored to represent the alumnae as the first Alumnae President, but I’m also doing this because of them, too. I loved my experience as a Princess, and I continually see, every single year – from where these young ladies start, to their going-away speech – just the transformation that they go through, as they go out into the world, and then hopefully come back and influence the next generation of Princesses. That’s why I do this. It’s why I continue to find myself staying in the program, because every year, we have 24 new Princesses.

My Facebook is full of Princesses, and getting to see what they’re doing, where they are, all around the country – some all around the world – they’re teachers, they’re mothers, community representatives, doctors, in the military, you name it! We have Daffodil Princesses probably representing every walk of life, throughout Pierce County and the world. They take their Daffodil experiences when they go with them, and I can probably guarantee that at least some of them list the Daffodil Festival in their resume. That’s super special.

In your Installation speech, as President, you mentioned that you really wanted to make this year one that celebrates Daffodilians, as well. But Daffodilians, in the scope of what the Festival is, don’t really get that kind of attention! What are some things you are hoping to do this year, that will really push those people forward?

I am really hoping to have additional events, that Daffodilians are invited to, where they’re just recognized for all the work that they do. They’re always in the background, but without Daffodilians, we would not have a Festival. All of the hours and work behind the Parade, behind the Royalty, the blood, sweat and tears, you know? Putting together the float, trying to get events going… I want to be able to celebrate them, and whether that means that at events we have something small, or having additional events for Daffodilians and opening them up to the public, I really just want the public to see the Daffodil Festival is three parts: the Parade, the Daffodilians, and the Princesses, and those three aspects could not do anything without the other.

You and I have talked a lot about the ways the Festival has changed over the years – we’ve both been involved for quite a while – and the Daffodilians used to be this kind of “social club.” What would you define Daffodilians, as a core group, being now?

Right! Right now, they are a mix of alumnae, as well as older Daffodilians, who have been around for a long time, as well as some new upcoming Daffodilians, usually parents. I’m excited for this year, because we have a new head Daffodilian, Sue Dellinger, who I’m hoping will really be able to take charge, as well. But yeah, it used to be a social club, and I’m honestly hoping to bring aspects of that back. Ask any Daffodilian, and yes, we do this because of the Princesses, but we also do this because of each other, and spending time together, the relationships that we have gained as friends.

Our big yellow family is not just the Royalty, it really is the Daffodilians, the parents, the volunteers, the chaperones, too! Daffodilians are a very special group, and there are so many people who also support the Festival, and this is all about them. Because each year, we bring in a new group of Princesses, but what remains, are the Daffodilians, so we need to make sure we’re supporting them, and thanking them for what they’re doing. Because we’re not paid. [laughs]

Oh yeah. [laughs] As we frequently remind people, we’re not paid! We’re just volunteers!

We are 100% volunteer, so we are paid through “thank you” s, and through the love that all of us have shared, the enjoyment of Pierce County and volunteering. It’s a special thing.

And speaking of this kind of history and the traditions that we preserve in our organization, your theme for this year is “90 Years Around the Sound.” What does that theme mean to you… and how cute is the octopus on the logo? I can’t stop looking at it.

The Daffodil Festival “90 Years Around the Sound” logo, which you can soon find on pins and stickers for sale on the Daffodil website and at events to commemorate the season. [photo courtesy of Morgan Bernardi]

[laughs] Yes! And I want to shout out to Morgan Bernardi, our Communications Director [and another fellow member of the 2012 Royal Court], for designing that. The octopus is my favorite animal, so I wanted to make sure that the Giant Pacific Octopus was featured, because of its connection to Pierce County, as well. I grew up here in the South Puget Sound, and growing up – going to Sunnyside Beach, and Steilacoom – I wanted to represent the beauty and the uniqueness of the Puget Sound… which in my head, I always think of the Narrows Bridge, so I wanted the Narrows Bridge in there! I wanted something ocean-themed, or in this case, Puget Sound-themed. Also, the Daffodil Festival started in 1934, so this is the 90th Daffodil Festival, even though I’m sure anyone who was actually born in 1934 is going to give me grief about that, but it’s 1934 to 2023, so those are 90 full years.

Oh, I know. Besides, I’ve also been having to remind people, remember, we had the “war years,” and then Covid, so everything makes sense when you really think about it!

Absolutely. And you know, I wanted to make sure we commemorated the 90th, because it’s a big deal – we’re so close to our centennial – as well as utilizing one of my favorite parts of the Pierce County area.

But you know, what really stood out to me, was all of the areas that are a part of the Puget Sound area, not just Pierce County, Tacoma, Gig Harbor… but also, one of the biggest things we do as a Festival is travel, so we travel up and down the Puget Sound area, [Seattle] Seafair, Port Townsend, Sequim, Port Orchard, so I also really wanted to celebrate the friendship we have around the Puget Sound area. Not just Pierce County, but also to shout out and support everyone who supports the Festival. Like you said, the Daffodil Royalty are the Official Ambassadors of Pierce County, and we can’t do much good if we stay put. These women will always be ambassadors, and they’ll leave Pierce County, and they’ll bring that experience with them… always bringing the history and legacy of Pierce County along with them.

So looking forward to the very near future, you have your first Selection coming up quickly! How are you preparing for each of these Selections, going to each of these schools, meeting all of these new faces?

President Madison with 2023 Fife High School Princess Candidate Oluebube, at her first Selection on October 12th! [photo courtesy of Madison Riddle]

It’s so funny to think like that, because I was actually one of the last schools selected for our Court, so when I was selected, I couldn’t go to a lot of the other Selections for that year. So this is actually really fun for me, to go to all 24 Selections… well, we have a double-booking one night, so I’m able to go to 23. But I’m going to be hitting up all 23! I’m preparing to really celebrate… I’m excited to meet all of the girls, and all of the community members.

We’ve worked really hard this year to have a diverse panel of judges, so some new faces, as well as a lot of familiar faces… I encourage everyone to support their local high school, and their Daffodil Princess Selection. Not just Princesses, but every single person who signs up to do this. Any one of them would be a worthy representative of their high school, and it takes a lot of guts to sign up, so I applaud every single one of those girls. Without our community, we don’t have a lot. I’m very excited to meet with all types of people, and try to get them excited about the Daffodil Parade. 90 Years is a long time! And we’ve had a couple of years without, so let’s really celebrate.

I think it was either Bob [Sudderth] or Scott [Dellinger]… maybe Ernie [Ouelette]… that made a comment at our Board Installation about last year’s Parade, and how it felt like one of the most successful Parades in recent memory. Maybe that’s attributed to Covid limiting opportunities in the years previous, but what is something you really hope for the Parade this year, to make it even bigger and better?

I would really love to see as many people as possible, as always. I think that’s always the goal! But I’d also really love to see some unique entries, as well… Parade entries open up in January, and there isn’t really much stopping anyone from being a part of it, barring certain political offices and what not. As long as you’re celebrating the community, and a part of this community, I’d love to see some more floats, or participation! I know that the rain is always a potential for disaster, but let’s put on a good face, and a good pair of rain boots, and stick it out.

It is on April Fool’s Day this year.

I know! And it’s not a joke… I’ve already had people start with that, but seriously, it is on April 1st. But yes, I’d love to see attendance… and I think I’d really love to see as many alumnae as possible this year. And I’m still trying to figure out who’s going to be my Parade Marshall this year. You know, one of many of those Presidential tasks you don’t really think about.

Call up Point Defiance, and ask if we can get the octopus on loaner!

Right? We need our Official Parade Marshall to be…

Oh-FISH-all.  [laughs]

[laughs] That’s right, our oh-fish-all octopus Parade Grand Marshall.

So to round things out, to our knowledge, you are the first Royalty Alumna to serve as Daffodil Festival President, in that role. What does that mean to you, and what are you hoping to invest in this year’s Court, to make it the experience you’d always hoped it would be?

That’s a really good question. Because I represent – I think we did the math – over one thousand Daffodil Princesses to date, and it means the world to me to represent the alumnae. Because it just shows that being a Daffodil Princess, you can really do anything. And I kind of think there was this rule before, that the Princesses were separate from the Daffodilians… so there really wasn’t Daffodil Alumnae President because of that, because they wanted the Princesses to stay Princesses, and the Daffodilians to be the ones supporting them, and I totally understand that. But what better way to give back to the organization that inspired me to be a part of it, than to help run it, and to help lead it into the future?

It means a lot, because I look back at the wonderful Princesses and Queens that could also be doing this job, and I know they’d be fantastic at it. So I’m hoping I can at least inspire a few more to get involved, and to put their mark of history on the Festival, with their own ideas. I’m just one person, even though I represent a big, old group. I hope to see many, many more alumnae in the future take up the helm, and see what they can do.

The late, great Daffodil President Susan McGuire (right) and current Daffodil Festival Director of Communications, Morgan Bernardi (left), at Princess Promenade in 2012. [photo courtesy of Morgan Bernardi]

I also think about our past President, [2005 and 2012’s Festival President] Susan McGuire, who is no longer with us, who was so pure of heart, and I feel like she inspired all of us to be our true selves, and I try to do that in everything that I do… but also love the community, and I think that was something I was always really thankful for, with her. She loved her community, and people.

And loved Princesses.

And Princesses! She loved her Princesses, and I love Princesses, too. So I’m really hoping that this year’s Court feels that love and support, and of all the alumnae that came before them. And who knows? Maybe one of them will be President someday.

President Riddle had one last parting message to share, for those who might be interested in what the Festival is developing this year: “All are welcome to join the Daffodil Festival! We’re working hard this year to recruit more Daffodilians, chaperones, float crew, and more and more volunteers. There’s no better time to join the big yellow family!”

If you’re looking to take our Princess President up on her offer, you can find out more on our Get Involved” tab, where you can learn more about Volunteering, and maybe even one day Become a Daffodilian” yourself!

And remember, the Daffodil Festival is in the thick of Princess Selection season! Keep up to date with our new and emerging 2023 Royal Court Candidates by following along on our Facebook and Instagram pages, too.

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