Rose Queen Natalie Innocenzi

Rose Queen Natalie Innocenzi

Photo courtesy of the Tournament of Roses Archives

A noble calling

Rose Queen Natalie Innocenzi seeks to raise wareness of Alzheimer’s disease

By Jana J. Monji 12/24/2009

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Each December, Pasadena crowns a new queen to preside over the world-famous Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. This year’s queen is 16-year-old Natalie Innocenzi of Arcadia, who is planning to embark on a life mission helping the elderly.

As the 92nd Rose Queen, Innocenzi, a senior at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, is living a dream. Being crowned, she said, “It felt amazing. It was the dream of a lifetime. I’m so honored and humbled. It means a lot to me to give back to the community and I’ve gained six new sisters.”

This year’s Royal Court includes Ashley Thaxton, 17, of John Marshall Fundamental High School; Kinsey Stuart, 18, of Pasadena City College; Katherine Hernandez, 18, of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and 17-year-olds Michelle Van Wyk of La Cañada High School, June Ko of Arcadia High School and Lauren Rogers of Blair High School. The seven young women were chosen from a list of more than 1,000 applicants who began the process in September. By the beginning of this month, the list was down to 26.

The queen and her court are expected to attend about 150 events during the coming year and appear in the 121st Tournament of Roses Parade and at the 96th Rose Bowl game.

Although Innocenzi and her family haven’t previously been involved in the parade, Innocenzi applied to be queen because she thought, “If you’re in Pasadena, it’s the chance of a lifetime and you never know what’s going to happen. You get to be part of a great organization.”

Innocenzi said this year’s parade theme, “A Cut Above the Rest,” means “pushing the envelope and being the best you can be. As my dad always tells me, ‘Do your best and forget the rest.’”

Part of Pasadena’s charm is that so many different people come together with warmth and unity to celebrate New Year’s Day in a way well-known around the world, Innocenzi said.

At Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Innocenzi has shown she’s a cut above the rest. She plans to study occupational or physical therapy in college, specializing in gerontology. She began an Alzheimer’s Awareness Week at her school and is a board member of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of American Teens. Innocenzi’s interest is personal: her grandmother was diagnosed with the disease. “It totally changed my life,” she said. “I want to help others going through the same things — it is such a prevalent disease.”

This year you can follow the Rose Queen and her court on Facebook or through a blog on the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Web site, tournamentofroses.com, called “The Rose Diaries.”

The 121st Rose Parade will begin at 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 1, with pilot Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III as the grand marshal.

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