Sure, it might sound a little cliché, but for Raina Kaping, it’s the truth.
Wearing the crown of Miss Litchfield is something she’s dreamed about for a long time.
“It’s always been something I really wanted to do, to represent Litchfield, and be Miss Litchfield,” Kaping said Monday morning, less than 24 hours removed from the coronation during which the crown was placed on her head. “Yeah, I started crying. It’s just so many emotions. I was very excited. Very happy.
“But I didn’t think all this was going to happen,” Kaping added with a smile, looking at the three young women surrounding her.
“All this” was a historical day in Miss Litchfield program history. For the first time ever, three princesses will be part of the community’s royal court. Traditionally, Miss Litchfield is joined by two princesses. And in years when there have been only four candidates — like this year — just one princess has been selected.
All that went by the wayside Sunday, however, as the other three candidates — Kaylee Sundve, Britney Prahl and Claire Loch — received princess crowns in a turn of events that seemed to stun not only the candidates but the large crowd inside Bernie Aaker Auditorium Sunday afternoon.
There was a hint of something up when emcee Megan Yates said that, in a change of tradition, Miss Litchfield, rather than the princess, would be crowned first.
But after Kaping received her crown, program participants — most of whom still didn’t know that the out-of-town panel of three judges had decided all three candidates were worthy of princess — pulled off a surprising sleight of hand.
Watercade Board president Heather Winkelman and commodore Rosanne Hansen learned on Saturday the judges were leaning to making all candidates royalty, so they scrambled to find a third princess crown, eventually borrowing Kaity Johnson’s crown she received as a princess in 2013-2014.
“We needed another crown,” Winkelman said. “We happened to have two princess crowns, because back when we ordered them, we didn’t know how many candidates we would have. So we quickly, in less than 24 hours, had to find another crown to use.”
That crown was stowed away in a bag by one of the judges, who made her way backstage prior to the crowning, handing it and the second crown to outgoing royalty to bestow on the new royalty’s heads.
“I was shocked, and I had my hands around my mouth and I looked around at Abby (Shoutz, princess), and I’m like, ‘Are you serious?’” Loch said of her reaction. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh!’ or something and she goes, ‘Turn around’ (to face the audience).”
In her state of disbelief, Loch swung around a little too quickly, and the crown fell from her head to the floor, suffering some minor, repairable damage.
“I was like, first of all, I can’t believe I just dropped it,” Loch said with a laugh. “Second of all, all three of us are princesses? What?”
It was, indeed, true. And the four new royalty members — along with Junior Royalty Helen Nistler and Amora Jimenz — expressed excitement for what the year holds for each of them.
“Coming in, just personal growth was something I wanted to work on a lot,” said Sundve, who will attend the nursing program at Ridgewater College in the fall. “And that’s what it brought, even through my candidacy. And now, I can’t wait to see where it brings me toward the end of my reign next year.”
While some might see the role of community ambassador as a challenge, even stressful at times. The 2022-2023 royals see opportunity.
“I’m just so happy to do this,” said Prahl, who will be a freshman at Martin Luther College in New Ulm in the fall, studying to become a teacher. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but a lot of being yourself, as well.”
Kaping, who will be a senior at Litchfield High School in the fall, looks forward to the experience.
“I think there will be some pressure, but it’s a good pressure I think,” Kaping said. “I don’t feel like a burden over any of it. It’ll allow for a lot of opportunities and growth throughout the year. Just being ourselves and doing what we’ve done through our candidacy, it got us all to this point. So it’s just a matter of continuing that throughout the year.”
As they finished interviews at both KLFD radio and the Independent Review Monday, Miss Litchfield and princesses looked forward to a day of shopping for royal attire. They’ll need their first outfit Saturday when they appear in the New London Water Days parade.