A contingent of La Cañada students, school officials and parents held their breaths Monday as 2019 Pasadena Tournament of Roses President Gerald Freeny announced the names of the seven young women who will serve on next year’s Royal Court.
They were among a boisterous crowd of hundreds gathered at Pasadena’s Tournament House to cheer on 44 finalists, who just last week had been selected from among more than 800 area applicants. Excitement reached a fever pitch as Freeny announced the third, then fourth, then fifth name.
It was looking like La Cañada, a city whose schools faithfully produce court members, some of whom go on to bear the title of Rose Queen, might be left out of this year’s celebration.
That’s when two local girls — La Cañada High School’s Rucha Kadam and Flintridge Preparatory School’s Helen Rossi — were called to fill the last two vacant spots, causing a great uproar among friends, family and faculty who’d turned out to support them.
Amid the cheers, Sal Kadam grinned, waved at his 17-year-old daughter from the crowd and offered her a thumbs up sign.
“I knew she was going to make it,” he said afterward as the Royal Court members lined up for their first official photo opp. “She’s really well-rounded and down to earth, and she loves people.”
In addition to serving as a member of La Cañada’s own Miss LCF Court last year, Rucha Kadam plays on her school’s varsity soccer team, volunteers with the Assistance League of Flintridge, attends JPL’s Space Academy and is a computer science intern with La Cañada Unified School District’s technology department. She hopes to study computer science or medical science in college.
Mom Vaishali Bhosale said she didn’t fully understand how monumental the Rose Parade tradition was until the family moved from New Jersey and saw the 2010 parade up close and in person.
“We saw the queens and were like ‘Oh my gosh,’” Bhosale recalled. “It’s so surreal that now she’s going to be there — I have goosebumps all over.”
Joining Kadam on the Royal Court, 17-year-old Prep senior Rossi also hails from La Cañada Flintridge. In addition to being a Flintridge Prep senior leader, she’s a member of the Cooking Club, Diversity Club and Flint Leadership Club and volunteers with the National Charity League of Glendale.
Rossi is also a member of Girl Scout Troop 7331 and a tutor with Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services. She enjoys photography and creative writing, and plans to study business and psychology in college.
After their announcement, Royal Court members took questions from the media as TV cameras recorded and camera shutters clicked all around them. Side by side and still a bit stunned, Rossi and Kadam handled the full court press with grace and aplomb.
“My first time watching the Rose Parade was in the pouring rain,” Rossi said, recalling a 2006 deluge that saw Royal Court members waving underneath clear plastic umbrellas. “Even though it was completely awful weather it was still so much fun and it was so inspiring to see the girls — they’re role models to every little girl who grows up in the Pasadena area.”
Royal Court membership comes with much recognition and some pretty sweet perks — court members will attend nearly 100 community and media events and have the honor of riding on New Year’s Day in the 130th Rose Parade, the theme of which is “The Melody of Life,” and attending this year’s 105th Rose Bowl Game.
Not to mention each young woman has a chance at being named the Tournament’s 101st Rose Queen, a fate that will be decided in an Oct. 23 coronation ceremony held at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Right now, however, Rossi and Kadam say they’re thrilled enough to have made it this far.