Cookies & Queens Royal Tea Party
● By Kimberly Boney
Your Royal Highness
By Kimberly Boney
Photo: Manda Reed
With sheer joy in her eyes, a little girl wrapped her tiny, 4-year-old arms around Princess Anna, and, even after all of the excitement of the day at the Cookies & Queens Royal Tea Party, mustered the strength to hold on to her favorite Disney princess for the longest hug imaginable. The look on the face of Princess Anna, played by Tiffani King, a longtime cast member of the Cookies & Queens Royal Tea Party, isn’t one her mom, Brandi King, will ever forget. “In that moment, my daughter knew the importance of what she was doing for those children.” It’s this sentiment that inspires Brandi King, Shasta Damboree Youth Leadership Advisor, her daughter and many other cast members and volunteers to continue this labor of love every year on the last weekend in September.
What began as a community service project pioneered by 2008 Shasta Damboree Queen Chelsey Landa and her sister, Bethany Moore, has blossomed into a much-anticipated yearly tradition that brings happiness to North State children and their parents – a rare opportunity in the time of jam-packed schedules to spend some precious moments together.
The Cookies & Queens Royal Tea Party is a children’s lunch theater that allows kids the opportunity to dress up and sit down to a meal of fruit kabobs, finger sandwiches and cookies served on fine china. Attendees get the royal treatment before the party begins at the Bippity Boppity Salon, where they’ll be adorned in hair bows, pixie dust and face paint, just in time for their royal entrance into the party. They will feel like royalty as they are met with the smiles, waves and hand claps of their favorite characters. Once seated at a table themed to perfection based on the character that will be dining at their table, they’ll learn how to properly hold a teacup, enjoy entertainment at center court, and relish in the opportunity to spend time chatting up their favorite characters. And no party would be complete without a photo opportunity and a royal dance party to finish it off in style.
Coordinated each year by the Shasta Lake Youth Leadership program, the event is far more than just fun and games. It encourages Shasta Lake youth to take an active role in their community through teamwork, accountability, responsibility and integrity. Proceeds from the tea party are used to purchase Christmas gifts for 350 children at the Shasta Lake Children’s Christmas Party. The youth leaders purchase, wrap and distribute the gifts, an unforgettable lesson in kindness and selflessness.
Youth leaders, ages 12-20, are required to think of their role as a job. The process of joining the program is similar to a job interview. Applicants may be required to give a short discussion on the importance of community. Youth leaders receive community service hours for their volunteered time, which could translate to a college scholarship. Viable life lessons: learned.
“I enjoy teaching life skills to young women and men who want to make a difference in the community. I help to counsel them and do my best to guide them through mistakes,” says Brandi.
It’s not uncommon for youth leaders to come back each year to be a part of the feel-good tradition. One repeat cast member is Halie Sutherland, who, for the third year in a row, will play Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Halie’s sister, Natalie Sutherland, who has played several characters over the years, will proudly play the part of Wendy from Peter Pan at this year’s event. Tiffani, who has been a cast member since she was 10, says she keeps coming back because “it is fun to play with the kids.”
“We have kids that have been attending the Royal Tea Party since it began that ultimately make the decision to join the cast,” says Brandi. “They want to be able to give that joy to another child in the same way they received it. It speaks to the importance and longevity of the program and lets us know we are serving our purpose.”
Sept. 24 and 25 at 11am, noon, 2pm and 3pm
(arrive 30 minutes before the sesson)
John Beaudet Community Center,
1525 Median Drive, Shasta Lake
Tickets $13; available at the door