‘A Huge Honor’

Rose Queen Bella Ballard is proud of her court

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Bella Ballard sees her role as the 104th Rose Queen as a “huge honor and responsibility,” one she never thought she would achieve. 

“Every day, I take it as an opportunity to not only be the best version of myself, but to be a role model in the community,” says Ballard, a 17-year-old senior at The Ogburn School, a distance learning school.

“I believe that we as a court all have a huge responsibility. It’s not just myself. We all can make changes and together we can make a bigger impact. I feel like I’ve gained six best friends.” 

The Altadena resident volunteers with Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Chelsea Football Club. She plays soccer at with the Santa Clarita Blue Heat and West Coast football clubs. Ballard is a street soccer player at Venice Beach Football Club and a tennis player at The Arroyo Seco and Flint Canyon Tennis Clubs. Sports are important to the soccer midfielder’s family, which includes her parents, Joseph and Angela Ballard, and a sister, Samantha.

“My mom played soccer at LMU and my dad played sports his entire life,” she says. “I got into it just for fun. It’s a family tradition to do something in sports. I’ve been blessed with a lot of opportunities through soccer. It’s one of my biggest passions.”

Ballard enjoys reading, calligraphy, collecting vinyl records, playing chess and learning about astronomy and astrophysics. She will attend Yale in the fall and is interested in studying economics, law and astrophysics. 

“I’ve committed for soccer at Yale and I’m going to continue on with that,” she says excitedly. 

Ballard was crowned during an announcement and coronation ceremony presented by Citizens Business Bank on the front steps of Tournament House.

Hosted by KTLA5 anchor Lu Parker, the announcement was made by 2023 Tournament of Roses President Amy Wainscott and follows a month-long selection process with students from 30 Pasadena area schools participating in interviews. 

The Royal Court was selected based upon a combination of qualities, including public speaking ability, academic achievement, youth leadership, and community and school involvement.

The history of the Rose Queen dates back to 1905, when Hallie Woods was selected to ride in a horse-drawn carriage down Colorado Boulevard. Since then, Rose Queens have had a wide range of success. From May Sutton, queen in 1908, the first American player to win the singles title at Wimbledon, to the 2000 queen, Sophia Bush, an actor nominated for a People’s Choice award for her role on “Chicago P.D.”

The 1940 Rose Queen, Margaret Huntley Main, is the longest living queen at 101 years old. From Northern California, she watched Ballard be crowned live on the Tournament of Roses YouTube channel.

During the coronation ceremony, Wainscott presented Rose Queen Bella Ballard with a Mikimoto crown featuring more than 600 cultured pearls and six carats of diamonds. 

As the Rose Queen, Ballard, along with her Royal Court, will attend numerous community and media functions, serving as ambassadors of the Tournament of Roses, the Pasadena community and the greater Los Angeles area. 

“We attend over 100 community events,” she says. “We just rode on the Goodyear blimp. That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Each Royal Court member will receive a $7,500 educational scholarship from the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.

“To be honest, I never thought I would be here today,” she says. “You drive past the Tournament House every day and think, ‘Oh my God, that’s where the queen and princesses live.’ Now I still can’t believe that it’s real.”

134th Rose Parade presented by Honda

WHEN: 8 a.m. Monday, January 2

WHERE: Starts at Green Street and Orange Grove Boulevard, Pasadena

COST: See website for tickets

INFO: tournamentofroses.com

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