Lebanon, OR's Local Newspaper Since 2016.

Meet the Court: Princess Laurel McGuigan

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Laurel McGuigan, 18, is the daughter of Robert and Kimberly McGuigan. She has a brother, Jeremiah, 23, and a sister, Adrienne, 21. Included as part of the family are four dogs, two cats and a handful of cows, ducks, chickens and turkeys.
Like the other princesses on the court, Laurel could be described as an all-American girl, but seasoned with an extra pinch of spice. That’s because she’s eaten cinnamon meal worms and chocolate-covered crickets. But she only tried them because she was visiting an insectarium.
She does, however, like to bake, and she and her sister challenge each other to re-create cultural foods from around the world, such as sushi, pirozhki (a Ukrainian street food) and lefse (a Norwegian potato flatbread).
Laurel has seen 48 states, living in four while her father served in the Marines before retiring to Lebanon in 2015. As such, she didn’t meet Strawberry Princesses until moving to the city, and she finds them inspiring.
She realized they are good people trying to make an impact, and she wanted to implement that character into her life.
“That really touched my heart, and I wanted to become a princess after knowing them,” she said.
She also appreciates the time and hard work people put into creating great floats, so she would say the parade is her favorite part of the festival, but there is one big contender: the World’s Largest Strawberry Shortcake.
“That holds a special place in my heart,” she said.
Laurel plans to attend Western Oregon University to become a psychiatric nurse and earn a certificate in American Sign Language. Until then, she’ll focus on sports. Laurel has been playing softball for 13 years, six with the Eugene Lightning club team (2015 to 2021).
She currently participates in Students Taking Action Not Drinking (STAND), a Linn County organization that discourages drinking and smoking. As a freshman, she helped with Land Lab activities, but found that she preferred working with people rather than animals.
Laurel also likes doing things outside, like hiking. Last summer she tackled Three Fingered Jack, a volcano near Sisters, with her boyfriend. The 13-mile trail took all day – a very hot day – to complete, and she took an extra trail that opened up to a lake with “the clearest water” she’d ever seen, with salamander swimming everywhere.
“It was definitely worth it, persevering through the heat and the miles to get to the top, because it was absolutely breathtaking,” she said.
Now that she’s crossed that trip off her bucket list, she looks to the next item: hiking one of the Three Sisters. But first she’d like to visit Alaska and Hawaii, her two remaining unvisited states.
As a member of a military family, Laurel’s met a lot of people from different cultures and walks of life. What stands out most to her is probably her time in Louisiana, where, she said, rumors of Southern hospitality proved true.
“It was probably one of the most unique areas I’ve ever been in,” she said.
She attended Mardi Gras festivals, watching crowds of people, dancers and “amazing floats,” feeling that everyone was looking out for each other. She experienced a St. Patrick’s Day parade where potatoes, carrots and cabbage were thrown at the crowds.
“We brought out softball mitts and caught our supper for the night,” Laurel said.
And during crawfish festivals, huge tables would be set up in neighborhoods where residents shared their crawfish boils. Times like those gave Laurel an opportunity to try such foods as po’boys, hush puppies, crab and alligator-on-a-stick.
At home in Lebanon, cultural experiences don’t happen as easily, but Laurel amuses herself with gardening.
She has her own little planter box – built by her father – where she tends herbs, strawberries and flowers. She also writes poetry and does needlepoint.
Laurel likes tradition, and she recognizes that the Strawberry Festival gives Lebanon’s community a sense of pride. She said that its elements, like the parade and Strawberry Court, keep people in high spirits, giving them something of their own to cherish.
But she’s also impressed by downtown businesses collaborating and helping one another, as well as the number of people who contribute to the festival.
“Everybody has a part in what makes this town special and keeping it going,” she said. “I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of different, diverse communities, and I’d have to say that Lebanon is one of the most community-building places that I’ve ever lived or been in.”