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MISSION — Hailey Alexandria Tijerina may moonlight as a white-belt in karate, but next weekend, she’ll get her biggest kick on the parade route as the Princess of Tangerine for the Parade of Oranges along side Queen Citrianna 74th and other members of the Tangerine Court.
“I get to sit in the front,” said Hailey.
The Texas Citrus Fiesta Royal and Tangerine Court will have their first public event at this weekend’s Royal Reception Ball at the Mission Community Center. The Yoyal Coronation, where the community gathers for the crowning of King Citrus and Queen Citrianna 75th, will be held Thursday, Jan 27. at the Mission Neuhaus Center at 7 p.m.
This week, the girls and their parents prepared for final dress fittings and photo sessions for the start of their appearances that over the next few months will not only introduce them to the Mission community, but other cities across the state, as well.
A first-grader at Mims Elementary School, Hailey is also following in her older sister’s footsteps. Ashley was Princess Anna 58th for the centennial celebration.
“We wanted our daughters to represent the city,” said their mother, Amy Tijerina. “I wanted my little girls to know where they come from and be a part of that. We’re very Mission proud.”
“I feel happy,” she said when asked about being selected as a princess. “It’s like a fairy tale.”
Tijerina has three girls, all who’ve had aspirations of being Princess Anna; Amanda, the youngest is set to participate in the Texas Citrus Fiesta in two years. But as they grow older, the girls have set their eyes on becoming Queen Citrianna.
“It’s a tradition I guess we’ll do,” Tijerina said. “We like the Fiesta because it’s very family-oriented and we get to have our girls represent the city. They’re a part of history.”
Princess of Lemon Blossom Ariel Vanessa Cantu of Pharr is no stranger to the Texas Citrus Fiesta, either. Like Hailey, her older sisters have participated in the event; one was named Princess of Lime Blossom in 2008.
“Pageants are a family tradition,” said Ariel’s mom, Claudia Cantu.
The first-grader at Dr. William Long Elementary also participates in modeling, landing herself gigs at local stores like Macy’s and Gap Kids, as well as commercials for Edinburg and McAllen hospitals, said her dad, Daniel Cantu.
Along with her dress – “It’s big and puffy” – Ariel said she’s most excited about Saturday’s ball.
Being a part of the Tangerine Court teaches the girls valuable lessons about being confident and prepared to speak with the public at a young age, she added.
When preparing Ariel for the question and answer segment of the contest, the parents said they stressed that Ariel just be herself.
“I don’t want her to be rehearsed because I think that’s what they look for, for them to be a child,” Claudia Cantu said.
As their daughters get older and participate in similar contests across the Rio Grande Valley and state, the Cantus said they’ll be back when it’s time for their daughters to try to get on the Royal Court.
“It’s exciting,” Daniel Cantu said. “We love seeing them on stage.”
For Princess Anna 61st Kaylie Jae Montes, her participation in the contest had nothing to do with an older sister or her mother’s dream to see her daughter in the parade, but a wish of her grandparents.
“They’ve been waiting for her to be six so she could join,” said Kaylie’s mom Melinda Montemayor, adding that for years her parents have been involved in the Fiesta as volunteers.
A kindergarten student at Edinburg’s De La Vina Elementary, Kaylie also participates in basketball, the Palm Valley Children’s Church choir and cheerleading and dancing with the Edinburg Parks & Recreation.
Having zero experience in the contest, Montemayor said she was nervous about the outcome and her daughter’s reaction if she didn’t earn a spot on the court.
“But she surprised us all and we were very happy,” she said.
Kaylie said she was too busy making new friends to even notice the competition aspect of the event.
The two have had a lot of catching up to do when it came to the court. The dress restrictions and the upcoming parades in Laredo, Corpus Christi and San Antonio are all new to the duo.
“I had no idea,” Montemayor said. “We just did this as a fun activity, and then, low and behold, she’s Princess Anna.”
Like the other princesses, Montemayor said Kaylie’s got crown fever and will be back for the contest when she’s older.
“I think it’s kind of a tradition for all the girls to stay involved,” she said. “She’s going to remember this forever. It’s every girl’s dream and every mom’s dream. She’s my princess, and every mom says that, but I can now definitely say that.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.