On Sunday, they’ll pass on their crowns. But they’ll hold onto a year’s worth of incredible memories, new friends, and significant growth in who they are as a person.
Yes, it promises to be a fun, emotional and jam-packed Riverfest weekend for the outgoing Monticello Royalty trio of Queen Hannah Palmer, Princess Nicole Atzl, and Princess Ashley Walz.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Palmer. “We are so blessed to have been given this opportunity, but we’re so excited for someone else to get the chance. That’s why it’s a year. You change, you grow, you develop and then you pass it on.”
My how they have grown
When they first decided on their candidacy last year, the three of them were hardly more than acquaintances. They’d met. They knew each other’s name. But that was about it. Just over a year later though?
“In the end, they’re like your family,” said Atzl of her two sisters in Royalty. “You gain family more than friends.”
The girls don’t recall a certain point where things turned in their friendship, noting that it’s been a growing together process that just hasn’t stopped. Somehow, even when they aren’t together (which is rare with their busy schedule), they’ve become inseparable.
“I think the funniest thing is when we’re not together, we’re still talking to each other,” said Palmer.
To some on the outside, the world of royalty consists of meeting new people, waving in parades, and a lot of stress.
While the girls admit there has been some stress and some negatives, they say that the burden was much less than expected. Instead of turning the girls into the high school monsters that are often portrayed in hit movies, the experience has seemed to bring out the best in each.
“I feel as though [our chamber and committee] really play on your strengths and they pull that confidence out of you,” said Walz. “They really try to get you to be professional and motivated and be a leader.”
The growth they have shown has certainly helped them to appreciate one another more each and every day. But just as importantly, they’ve each learned to appreciate themselves throughout the process.
“I’ve grown immensely in the confidence aspect,” said Walz. “The biggest thing for me was learning to accept myself for me. I am who I am. It was a major issue for me and my size, going into all of this. But it’s being able to truly accept myself for who I am and loving myself. That’s what I gained from this.”
Oh, and of course there have been a few memories made along the way.
They started being made well before the girls started wearing the crowns. Events like Bertram Family Fun days and the candidates sleepover top the list of memories from the days last summer when the girls were still just candidates.
And once those crowns were put on, doing simple things for the first time became memorable.
They all vividly recall their first trip to Target together during the first month of their reign, as they tried to find shoes that were allowed and matched both their outfit and their crown.
“We spent an hour there,” said Atzl. “Just trying to find one pair of shoes.”
As candidates the girls have enjoyed a wide variety of events for an equally wide variety of reasons. Atzl fondly recalls last year’s Wright County Fair, where the self-proclaimed “country girl” felt right at home. She also remembers chasing Walz around the fairgrounds with a frog – Walz is quite scared of them – just one of countless inside jokes and memories that are special just to the three of them.
Walz herself enjoyed one of the most recent events, Big Lake’s Spud Fest parade. All of the incoming candidates rode the float with the outgoing Royalty, and for Walz it brought back memories of last year and a reminder of just how much she has grown for the past year.
And for Palmer, Anoka Halloween and the Hutchinson Father’s Day parade (where two of the girls walked with a grandpa and one with their dad) were two of the biggest highlights from the past year.
But one thing they all agree on, is as fun as it’s been to go on the road, meet new people, and represent Monticello in front of others – none of those compare to events in Monticello.
“When you come back home, that’s a totally different feeling,” said Palmer. “I love being home.”
And home is where they will get to wrap up what Walz calls the ride of a lifetime. Many royalty programs crown their girls at the beginning of their town days, and they begin their year of royalty at the local event. Monticello is unique in that it ends where it all started. The girls wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I don’t want it to end,” said Palmer, admitting that emotions are certainly mixed. “But, it’s awesome that we get to be in our hometown. I think it means so much more that I get to spend my last five days of reign in the place I love more than anything.”