Maddie Norris earns judges’ nod as Strawberry Festival Queen

Maddie Norris was crowned Queen at the 108th annual Lebanon Strawberry Festival Queen’s Coronation May 24.

Norris wanted to be on the Strawberry Court so she could be a positive influence on those around her, she said. Having participated in a variety of activities, including volleyball, golf and Future Farmers of America, she wants others to know it’s OK to do different things.

Asked how she stays encouraged to help her community despite so much violence in the world, which was one of her impromptu questions, Norris said she believes it’s an opportunity to strengthen each other and be more supportive in a world of problems.

“I believe all of this happens for a reason, and we should come together and make the world a better place,” she said.

Judges score each princess based on personal interviews and presentations at the coronation, then those scores are tallied to determine the queen.

Mike Lee, a judge from Corvallis, said all the princesses scored very close to each other, but it was Norris who ended up with the most total points.

“Maddie just has this natural princess-like aura about her,” Lee said. “One of the things I really liked about her was her ability to kind of almost command a room, but in a very unique way.”

Tammy Reeves from Albany, and Penny York from Corvallis were the other two judges at this year’s coronation. Reeves said she found the experience interesting and was impressed with the caliber of the young ladies who entered. York also expressed enjoyment in the process.

“It’s just such a charming community home celebration; I love to be here with the folks,” York said. “The most fun part of it is doing the individual interviews of the princesses. They’re so charming and excited and proud, so getting to know them is really a pleasure.”

Of Norris, York said the queen seemed to excel in every category, in poise, sincerity and sense of pride.

During the event, Cascade Performing Arts and members of the Lebanon Community Chorus entertained the audience, followed by a special dance performance from the Strawberry Court.

Shelly Garrett, master of ceremonies, introduced the Strawberry Court as “incredible servants to our town,” chosen as representatives of Lebanon who have visited local schools and assisted living facilities, joined parades all over Oregon, and participated in numerous community events.

Being a part of the Strawberry Court, she said, gives young women a reason to be involved in their community and achieve academic success, and to set a standard for children to look up to.

Princess Kendall Crawford said the experience has been the highlight of the year for her.

“I loved getting to know all the amazing people who contribute so much to our community, and being a positive role model for all the younger generations,” Crawford said.

When asked an impromptu question at the event why she feels camping – this year’s Strawberry Festival theme – is a good pastime for families, Crawford said her family camping trips have been especially memorable.

“It’s a really good chance to put the phones down and just get to talk with your family, and have some really good experiences and have memories that last a lifetime,” she said.

Of Norris, Crawford said the two developed a friendship that will last a lifetime, and that Norris is “the sweetest” girl, who deserved the crown.

Princess Katie Frederic said her biggest lesson from being on the court is to stay positive about everything.

“There’s always gonna be something good that can come out of any situation,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how bad it might seem at first. Always just take a step back and think about the good in every situation.”

Frederic was proud Norris made queen.

“I wholeheartedly agree with their decision because she has one of the most genuine, kind, compassionate hearts, and she definitely stands out,” she said.

Princess Brooklyn Giles wanted to use her influence as a Strawberry Princess to show young girls they can do whatever they set their mind to, but she gained an improved confidence, herself, while building a relationship with the other girls on the court.

“These girls have taught me that I am beautiful and I am strong in myself, and I am so thankful for them for that,” she said.

Giles said she expects Norris will be a great role model for girls.

“Queen Maddie is a great girl. She’s very smart and I’m so proud of her.”

Princess Amanda Raymond was chosen by the court for the Joyce Thoma Miss Congeniality award.

Asked what advice she’d give someone struggling to maintain a positive body image, Raymond said she’d tell them being happy with themselves is what makes them beautiful.

“Everyone is perfect in their own way, and if you’re confident in your own skin, you’re beautiful,” she said.

2016 Strawberry Festival Queen Haley Smith passed her crown to Norris following a heartfelt farewell to her reign.

“The months of visiting the different community events and out-of-town parades seemed endless at the time, but as soon as festival weekend was over, it was if the entire town had a sweeping sadness, knowing we had to wait an entire year before festival season came about again,” Smith said.

“The best piece of advice I feel I could give to this year’s court and their queen is to be proud of this; you have earned this and it’s a privilege. You will always be a representative of the Lebanon community, and it is something to be very proud of.”

Following graduation, Norris plans to be a student athlete and complete prerequisites for nursing at Linn-Benton Community College.

“To me, the queen is someone who does good and they will continue to do good,” she said. “They do good because their heart tells them to, not because someone tells them to. So I’ll continue to do good and be a good role model.”