Princesses Bailey Thomson, Elanna Doran join parade
Jadyn Mitchell is stranger to neither rein nor reign, and this year’s ’49er Days celebration puts her in another role in a steady stream of positions that unite two of her passions: riding and representing her community.
As ’49er Days Queen, Jadyn, along with her royal court — Princess Elanna Doran and Princess Bailey Thomson — serves as a symbol of Winthrop’s western heritage.
Now a senior at Liberty Bell High School, Jadyn earned her first tiara at age 12, when she was crowned as one of the youngest-ever Methow Valley Rodeo princesses, in 2017. She later served as rodeo queen in 2020 — a reign that was extended through 2021, due to COVID.
Now in her final month of high school, Jadyn has been “pretty busy,” she said, in a classic understated manner. She played volleyball in the fall and has for years anchored the basketball team all winter. She also completed college and scholarship applications, worked, and is now playing left field as a rookie softball team member. “Somehow I make it work,” she shrugged. “But my schedule is tight.”
Although Jadyn is a competent lifelong horsewoman, for ’49er Days she’ll be riding in a carriage driven by Tyler Miller. But she’ll need to find a horse to use in the Ride to Rendezvous — the annual multi-day overland ride on horseback and wagon train hosted by the Washington Outfitter & Guides Association, which kicks off the ’49er Days weekend with a ride through downtown Winthrop at high noon on Friday (May 6). Jadyn owns two mares, but both are pregnant and unable to carry her on the Western-style journey she has been participating in her whole life.
Elanna will be joining Jadyn on the Ride to Rendezvous on Moonfire, the Arabian mare she has had since she was 12. She first rode a horse when she was two weeks old and has spent time in the saddle ever since.
Like Jadyn, Elanna is a senior at Liberty Bell; unlike Jadyn, she is new to the public eye (“Although,” she said, “I’m a Doran. There are a lot of us around here.”).
But after being encouraged to run for ’49 Days royalty by a fellow member of her congregation, Elanna embraced the opportunity. “I’m getting to know so many new people,” she said, adding that one of the highlights of her reign — so far — has been visiting her alma mater, Methow Valley Elementary School. “That was really fun,” she said. “So many kids come up to us and ask, ‘Are you a real princess?”
Elanna’s job at Twisp Feed, in addition to playing volleyball and making art, keep her busy, but the extra time spent as a ’49er Days princess has been rewarding, particularly the chance to serve as royalty with her fellow volleyball team members Jadyn and Bailey . “It’s nice doing this with people that you know,” she said.
Jadyn plans to spend this last summer of her childhood at home, working as a babysitter and enjoying family and friends before departing for Washington State University in the fall. Always a whiz with numbers, Jadyn intends to study math and accounting. Elanna has a goal of saving money from her job at the feed store and spending time researching art and photography schools where she can further develop her artistic talents through sketching and taking pictures, as well as exploring the many mediums of commercial art.
The same church friend who encouraged Elanna to apply for the ’49er Days junior royalty also urged Bailey to throw her hat in the ring, and although as a sophomore Bailey is younger than the typical princess, she impressed the selection committee and was chosen.
Bailey moved to the Methow Valley in third grade and plays volleyball and softball; she also serves up America’s favorite dessert at Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe. “It has been fun to get closer to these two,” she said of her royalty experience so far. “I’ve made more of a personal connection with Jadyn and Elanna and I’ve met so many new people.”
Although she is not much of a horsewoman, Bailey will join her fellow royalty on the last night of Ride to Rendezvous, where they will invite the guests to the ’49er Days parade and other festivities.
Locally sourced dresses
After the parade, the girls plan to change out of their long dresses and into Western wear that will enable them to move about town more freely, unencumbered by hoop skirts. (You’ll still be able to identify them, though, by their tiaras and sashes.) The gowns themselves, however, carry meaning that extends well beyond the parade’s duration: all three junior royalty members are wearing dresses previously worn by other ’49er Days queens and princesses.
Since longtime ’49er Days seamstress Donna Martin — well into her 80s — retired from sewing bespoke dresses in 2019, the royalty pair or trio has ordered outfits online. But when the dresses arrived Jadyn, never one to mince words, said “They looked like sacks.”
So the dresses were returned and the royalty turned to the ’49er Days community, which, as it has for 77 years, delivered. Jadyn will wear a dress made for her mother (then Stephanie Mountjoy, now Mitchell) during her ’49er Days reign 27 years ago, at the 50th ’49er Days celebration in 1995. Elanna’s dress comes from Katie Labanauskus, who was the 2018 princess, and Bailey’s was worn by Tiffany Taylor (now Surface) as queen in 1998. The dresses were made not in a factory but right here in the valley, by Marva Mountjoy, Donna Martin and Becky Taylor, respectively, and it shows: quality fabric, flattering lines, meticulous stitching, craftsmanship designed to last.
Conferring further intergenerational significance for this year’s royalty are other family connections. Bailey is the granddaughter of Miller, the junior royalty’s carriage driver, and thus the great-granddaughter of Claude Miller, who will drive the carriage bearing Grand Lady Marva and Marshal Jim Mountjoy, who are Jadyn’s grandparents.
Jadyn said, “I feel pretty lucky to have this opportunity to be royalty with my grandparents, wearing my mom’s dress.”
Winthrop ’49er Days was originally launched as a way to restore the spirits of town residents after a tough winter, and later developed into a means of revitalizing a town. The scope and scale of the event has changed over the years, but the themes that connect all the ’49er Days celebrations resonate with this year’s junior royalty: Western heritage, family ties, community identity, and tradition.