LETTER FROM WESLEY • Festival brings us together, Rosaria's 2001 monarch notes

Hello, Portland.

Well, guys, it's that time of year again. I'm writing you from San Francisco, where I am following my dream of being an intellectual 'fashion designer.' Ha ha ha! Anyway, I just wanted to reminisce.

This past year as Portland Rose Festival queen has been one that I will always remember and that will forever influence my life. The strongest memories are of the time I spent with the inspirational women of the Rose Court and the many people and faces we met throughout our time together.

To give you all a quick update, in September, along with other members of the Rose Festival Association, I was fortunate to attend the Pendleton Roundup (let me tell you, if nothing else, the cowboys were worth it!). The roundup was awesome, and I just love how the entire town of Pendleton goes all out.

In October, I traveled with the Portland Sister City Association and the Rose Festival Association to one of our sister cities, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The heartfelt generosity and hospitality of the Kaohsiung Sister City Association was more than I could have imagined and offered with the utmost sincerity. I also find it imperative to mention that the Taiwanese shopping was nothing less than totally cutting edge.

We traveled to the oceanfront and met with members of the Kaohsiung City Council. I was introduced to many food dishes, we visited a school in which the students performed a tear-jerking piece from 'Miss Saigon,' and during my seven-day visit I mastered the Taiwanese language. Well, not quite.

I loved Taiwan so much that I plan to return, perhaps to teach some English classes and maybe even squeeze in a little shopping.

I live in San Francisco now, but a day does not go by when I don't think of home. Portland is not at all a big place, and perhaps that is what I love the most, the great sense of community in our little city.

I know that I feel that sense of community the most during the Rose Festival. It is a tradition that continues to bring the people of Portland together. I feel a tremendous sense of pride in knowing that I was able to represent this secret little place.

As the queen (that sounds so funny), I didn't try to change anything or make a statement. I tried hard to make the city proud and, most important, to be myself.

This is a quasi-clichŽ, but if there is one thing that I hope you all have picked up, it is the importance of being proud of who you are. And if you are perhaps a bit to the left or right of 'what is expected,' then that is just brilliant.

It has been a genuine honor to represent you, and I had an absolutely fabulous time while doing so.

P.S. Because I'm in school until the end of June, I will not be able to partake in all of the fabulous Rose Festival festivities. So please, I urge you all to go out and enjoy them for me and for yourselves.

A few suggestions: The Pepsi Waterfront Village is awesome and was definitely a favorite among the court. The Dragon Boat Races are insane and so packed full of adrenaline that it's an absolute party. The air show is also a fantastic way to spend a weekend.

And, of course, there is my absolutely favorite event, the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade. The floats are top-notch, the bands are awesome and, of course, you will get to see this year's Rose Court up close and personal.

Go out and enjoy these unique and, most of all, fun traditions!

Wesley Grout, 19, a Lincoln High School graduate, is studying fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco.

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