There was one positive outcome of the pandemic for Emma Williams, a member of the 2021 Lebanon Strawberry Festival court: She learned how to snowboard.
When she was younger, Williams had taken skiing lessons but she never got enough practice to feel really comfortable on the slopes. But when the pandemic began, her family was looking for ways to spend time together. Her mother enjoyed snowboarding during her youth and the sport also had the advantage of requiring less equipment to haul up to the mountain.
“Snowboarding was a quarantine thing,” Williams said. “Since we were doing online school and we didn’t have school on Wednesdays, we would be like, ‘We’re going to Hoodoo today.’ It was so much fun getting to spend that quality time with my mom and my brother and get to share a new skill.”
Unlike skiing, Williams spent enough time snowboarding to show real improvement and it is a pastime she looks forward to continuing.
Williams also kept herself occupied by trying out for and winning a place on the Strawberry Festival Court. Serving as one of the five princesses made a childhood dream come true for Williams.
“I was always the little girl who was like, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a princess. That’s what I want to be and you can’t tell me anything different,’” Williams said.
That dream was fueled by popular culture, but it was Lebanon’s real-life princesses who visited her elementary school who showed her how it might be possible. She still recalls how overwhelmed she was by the court members on these visits.
“These older girls are princesses for real. I got so excited by that and found it so inspiring and empowering. 'That’s how I can be a princess. That’s what I’m going to do,'” Williams said. “I remember that feeling and I want to give it to other little kids.”
She is especially thankful for her experience on the court during a high school experience that was cut short in so many other ways.
"We don't have a lot of dances, or football games or social opportunities to talk to our peers this year. This has been a great thing for me to hang out with these girls who are my peers and who I know and have these fun experiences with them," Williams said. "It's been a great break from the school restrictions this year."
After graduating this week from Lebanon High, Williams plans to enroll at Linn-Benton Community College. She then plans to transfer to Western Oregon University and major in either psychology or education.
If she does become a teacher, she is most interested in working at the middle school level, where she feels the need is the greatest.
“I know that middle school is a hard time for everybody’s life. I feel like there might be a higher demand for it. With my interest in psychology also, I think it’s really important that kids, especially in that age group, have a stable, safe adult that they know. I think it would be good to be that person for kids,” Williams said.