Princess Emma Williams

When she was a little girl, Emma Williams definitely knew she wanted to be a princess, and she was certain to tell people that’s what she wanted to do when she grew up.
She remembers when former Strawberry Courts would visit her school for lunch and talk to the kids.
“It was just a huge inspiration to me, and it was like, you can be whatever you want to be. It was really empowering,” she said. “That’s really just what made me want to be a princess, and I really looked up to them for that and I wanted to give that same feeling of empowerment to other kids.”
Now, at 18, Williams has grown up and realized her dream.
She really appreciates the reaction the Strawberry Princesses get when they visit kids and the residents at assisted living facilities, she said. Whether a child or retired person, it’s always the same.
“All these different people from such different backgrounds and different ages and stuff, and they’re all just still, like, so excited to see the princesses,” she said.
Her favorite part about the Strawberry Festival itself is the carnival, she said. It’s about going on rides with friends and seeing familiar faces and the excitement in the air.
“It just felt like something that was really kind of unifying, that within the community, everybody was just always excited to go on the rides and stuff,” she said.
The tradition of a Strawberry Festival continuing through the years is important because it encourages people to be a strong and connected community, Williams said. It’s a unifying force.
“It’s just something that the whole community can get behind, and there’s just something for everybody,” she said. “I just love how it brings our community together, and I think that it definitely makes us stronger as a community.”
Not only does the festival provide entertainment for parents and kids, but it also supports the local businesses, as well, she noted.
As a member of Lebanon High School’s business club, DECA, it makes sense that Williams would notice that particular benefit to the community.
While in DECA, she met some of Lebanon’s “amazing” business owners, and noticed that, despite her marketing classes teaching “business is competition,” the local entrepreneurs do things a little differently.
“It’s amazed me how much the businesses in Lebanon support each other and care about each other,” she said.
Being on the court, Williams was looking forward to the tradition of eating lunch with the children at school, but COVID prevented them from being able to do that, she said. But it was fun for her to be on a Zoom meeting that allowed her to see the classroom, and the kids were able to ask questions.
She just wishes she could meet more people and spend more time getting to know more of the kids and veterans in the community.
For Williams, being a Strawberry Princess means being a role model, somebody who can help empower others, and being there for the community, she said.
COVID has made things challenging for everyone, and Williams said she has learned to look at the “glass half full” side of things, she said.
“I’ve just been trying to make the best of it,” she said. “It was a really great opportunity to spend more time with my family, which I’m really glad that that happened.”
She considers herself pretty social, so this past year and a half she has also learned to be OK with being by herself, she said. It’s given her a chance to learn more about what makes her feel happy, such as painting.
She has always been drawn to activities that involve creativity, and has taken a lot of art classes in school, she said.
Williams also likes to dance, which is something she’s been doing since she was a little girl.
“I love dancing and it’s always been something really fun because I love music, but I cannot make music, so the next best thing for me is to dance, right?”
Williams has worked with dance studios as well as the high school dance team. She prefers upbeat dance work, such as hip-hop and pom routines.
She also likes doing things outside, and the outdoors inspire her artwork. In the winter, Williams likes to snowboard, and she goes hiking during warmer seasons.
“I love living in not only Lebanon, but Oregon, because I think it’s so beautiful here with the greenery and all the trees we have, and just the amount of beautiful nature that we have here,” she said.
She would like to travel to Montana some day because that’s where her mother is from, and it would give her the opportunity to see nature’s different scenery, she said.
Her mother, Chrissy Shanks, is probably her biggest inspiration; the two are very close.
“I just think that she’s the most amazing, intelligent, strong woman that there is,” Williams said. “I just have a lot of admiration for her.”
Shanks has always worked in education, and that has inspired Williams to take a career in either education or psychology.
“She’s just really encouraged me to want to be around kids and help kids, because I’ve had such an amazing support system in my life with her,” Williams said. “I know that not all kids have that, so I would love to be that same person for other kids.”