McAlinden crowned Chrysanthemum Queen
WAILUKU–Alyssa McAlinden, junior at Kamehameha Schools Maui, topped her three competitors and earned the crown at the 59th Annual Chrysanthemum Festival held at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku, December 3.
“In the beginning, it [entering the fundraising pageant] was just because my grandmother was the Chrysanthemum Ball queen in 1959, and my
aunty was queen in 1994, so I thought it would be cool to start like, a little family tradition,” McAlinden said.
The queen of the event is the candidate who raises the most funds for the sponsor, Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans in partnership with the County of Maui.
“I walked house to house every day [to raise money], which is something that none of the other contestants did,” McAlinden said. ”It probably took me over the top.”
McAlinden said that going door to door wasn’t all about the money. She said that her favorite part of fundraising was getting to meet all of the people who were donating money. She encountered everyone from people who belong to the civic clubs to people who were former queens or contestants. “I even met one of the veterans from the 442nd [infantry regiment from WWII],” she said.
McAlinden used her canvassing experience as the basis for her first place essay on the topic of gaman, a Japanese concept of perseverance and endurance. The essay prompt asked contestants to tell about how they apply gaman in their lives. McAlinden described how the idea helped her as she hit the streets every day.
She won the top prize of $500, out of the $1000 in prize money that was split between the four contestants according to their placement in the contest. This was the first year for the essay contest.
While all pageant participants keep a portion of the money they raised as a scholarship, some of the remainder is awarded as scholarships to others through a pairing of the Sons and Daughters and the Maui Americans of Japanese Ancestry Veterans Club. In 2010, AJA veterans and the Sons and Daughters awarded 10 scholarships.
The remaining portion of the proceeds help support club activities and historical preservation efforts such as the collection of photographs and memorabilia, which can be found at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center. The group is also building an education center there.
Other programs that the Sons and Daughters are involved with are the Go For Broke Foundation’s Hanashi oral/video history projects and the annual Veterans Day tribute at Queen Ka`ahumanu Shopping Center.
Saturday night’s program was followed by bon dances, as well as a line dance and the queen waltz which was choreographed by Mr. Jeffrey and Mrs. Lydia Dela Cruz. The candidates and their escorts practiced the dances for the seven Sundays leading up to the event.
“I had fun waltzing,” said KSM junior Aaron Dela Cruz, McAlinden’s escort.
McAlinden said, “I learned how generous people can be,…even people giving change from their piggy banks all helped.”
Also competing this year were Alicia Ballesteros, a junior at St. Anthony Junior Senior High School; Lindsey Miyamoto, a junior at Baldwin High
School; and Aja Muromoto, a senior at King Kekaulike High School.
McAlinden said that the process of becoming Chrysanthemum Queen was fun. “I would encourage people to do it. It goes to a good cause,” she said.