Under their breath, Jennifer Elaine Halferty's younger sisters occasionally chide the 17-year-old for being a "perfect princess," but on Tuesday her adoring siblings could publicly call the Polytechnic School student a "queen."
Squinting at first in the garish early morning sunlight, Jennifer's hazel eyes popped wide open as Tournament of Roses President William Johnstone Jr. proclaimed her the 79th rose queen.
The six princesses of the court relaxed from their feet-in-third-position poses and threw their arms around Jennifer in a congratulatory hug on the lawn of the Tournament House.
"This truly is one of my life's shining moments," Jennifer told reporters, delving expertly into her new role as ambassador of the 1997 Tournament of Roses--themed, of course, "Life's Shining Moments."
Co-captain of her high school song/cheer squad and lead in last year's spring musical, Jennifer is a poised, graceful public speaker who conducted one of her rose-related interviews in fluent Spanish for a local television station.
The tall, trim redhead said the tough selection process, coupled with her theater experience, proved helpful during a recent entrance interview with Jennifer's college of choice, USC.
"One day after the semifinals, I interviewed with the USC dean and he asked me the same question that [the queen and princess selection committee] asked me."
The question, "describe your perfect day," was not one of Jennifer's favorites at either interview, "But at least with USC I had an answer ready."
Incidentally, the queen's perfect day involves waking up late and hitting the beach with a thermos of coffee and a dogeared copy of "Gone With the Wind."
But given the rose court's busy schedule,
Jennifer may not have much time for the beach, said Keli Hutchins, last year's rose queen who is now a USC freshman.
"It's very hectic," Keli said, wearing the sparkling tiara that will remain hers until the Tuesday coronation ceremony.
In addition to attending the Rose Parade, the court must travel to a variety of service club meetings, community brunches and lunches and countless other appearances meant to promote the Tournament of Roses. Keli said she even took two trips to Japan.
Jennifer's parents, James and Mary Kaye Halferty, said they are bracing themselves for this year's frenzy--as well as the maelstrom that will befall them when the time comes for their younger daughters Julie, 15, and Jill, 13, to try out.
At least 125 events are scheduled between Tuesday's royal affair and the actual New Year's Day parade, but "we're prepared," Mary Kaye Halferty said.
The entire court managed to maintain bright smiles, despite beginning their day with a 4:30 a.m. trip to the hair salon in preparation for the ceremony.
The princesses were coiffed, made up and outfitted in identical blueberry wrap-around gabardine dresses, compliments of Nordstrom.
"It's a modern dress," said Joanna Joubran, a fashion consultant with the department store. "The dresses match the evening gowns" the women will wear at the coronation ceremony.
Although Joubran did not want to reveal too much about the gowns, Princess Portia Pedro, 16, of Flintridge Preparatory School, confided that "they're beautiful."
The rose court also includes Cheryl Cabigas, 17, of San Marino High School; Jodi Tanner, 17, of South Pasadena High School; Jennifer Martinez, 17, also of South Pasadena High; Farrah Wheeler, 18, of John Muir High School, and Lisa Remillard, 17, of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy.