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Hotseat: Joyce Goodman

Becoming Rose Festival royalty ain't what it used to be. Joyce Goodman knows how to fix that.

In Joyce Goodman's day, every girl in Portland dreamed of being crowned queen of the Rose Festival. That dream came true for her in 1949. At age 80, she can still recall the shock and excitement of the moment her name—then Joyce Sommerlade—was called. She remembers the flashbulbs popping, the applause of the crowd, her father struggling to get past onstage security to take a photo with her.

Teenagers have different dreams now. Applicants for the Rose Festival Court have dwindled over the years, to the point where organizers were forced to open the competition to high-school senior girls from all area high schools—even Gresham. And that bums Goodman out.

"It was such a big deal to be a Rose Festival princess back then," says Goodman over the phone from Salt Lake City, where she lives with her husband, five children and 19 grandchildren, "And it's not anymore, I guess."

But Goodman has a few suggestions for restoring the pageant to its former glory.

Step one: cuter girls.

WW: What are your memories of the competition the year you won?
Joyce Goodman: I was definitely not the most beautiful of the girls, but I had a lot of speech training. Growing up, I gave readings around town at civic groups and church groups and directed a play at Grant. I had that experience, and I think that made the difference. When we were selected as queen, it was at the Portland Civic Auditorium [now Keller Auditorium]. It was packed with kids from all the schools, and the student-body president from every school would introduce their princess, and we gave a talk. I don't remember feeling a rivalry [with any of the other princesses]—maybe with one of them, but that goes away when you get older.

How did your life change after you were anointed Rose Festival queen?
Every day, this cute fellow from one of the schools would drive up in a long, white convertible, and they'd walk up to the door with two dozen roses to pick you up and take you to whatever event was happening that day. We had an outdoor, screened-in porch, and it was filled with roses. One of the things I got to do was christen a railroad train. I took a big whack at it, and the bottle didn't break. I went to the University of Oregon on scholarship, and I was invited to join the best sororities. As you might have figured out, I'm a Mormon. I was the first Mormon girl to be a queen. So I was getting a lot of attention from my friends at church, and my parents' friends.

Why do you think the prestige of the Rose Festival queen has declined?
I don't know, but I've been very sad about it. I was there for the 100-year celebration [in 2007]. That year, there was one standout, beautiful girl, and she was made queen. But some of them were not cute at all. And I think when people see that, they say, "Well, I'm not going to try out for that."

What makes a girl not Rose Festival queen material?
Weight probably has something to do it. Hair, face—it's the whole thing. It's the whole persona, too. It's the personality. 

And you thought some of these girls didn't have those qualities?
Exactly. And that's what I saw that year. I saw them all up close. Some of them were cute, but they were not what they used to be, let's put it that way.

How do you change that?
The girls I spoke with that night at the queen's ball were really darling girls, but there was one in particular. I don't remember her name, but she was really gangbusters. I think if they could get someone like her to go around to the schools and talk to the junior and senior girls, and tell them we're looking to bring the glamour back to the Rose Festival, that it could encourage them. 

SEE IT: The coronation of the 2012 Rose Festival queen takes place at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 300 N Winning Way, on Saturday, June 9. 8:30 am. $30.