Princess Zoe enjoys insider’s view of the weekend festivities
Winthrop’s 2023 ’49er Days junior royalty duo is a dynamic mixture of old and new, blending longtime Methow Valley traditions and connections with fresh faces and innovations.
A sophomore at Liberty Bell High School, Queen Rio Bourn Lott grew up in the Methow Valley, the fifth generation of her family to do so. “I’ve been going to ’49er Days since I was little,” Rio said. “I always liked looking at the princesses in their dresses, but I never really thought about doing it myself.”
Rio’s mother, Brooke Bourn, was a ’49er Days Princess in 1996 and her grandmother Lori Lott was a junior royalty member two decades before that. Apples don’t often fall far from the tree, so it’s not surprising that Rio has become the third in her direct family line to wear the crown, but she identified a more contemporary junior royalty member as her inspiration: her good friend Jadyn Mitchell, who was the 2022 ’49er Days Queen.
“Jadyn did it and she encouraged me, and Marva [Mountjoy] thought I should do it, so I decided to apply,” Rio said. (Mountjoy is the ’49er Days junior royalty chaperone, 2022 Grand Lady, mother of 1995 ’49er Days queen Stephanie Mitchell, and grandmother of Jadyn.)
The Mountjoy and Bourn families have a long history of interconnection. Brooke Bourn and Stephanie Mitchell were in the same graduating class and both served as junior royalty members. Bourn’s father, Mike, was the girls’ basketball coach, coaching both his daughter and Mitchell. Later, Mitchell coached for many years. The current girls’ basketball coach is Bourn’s sister, Korrie.
Comfortable on horseback
Princess Zoe Kaltenbach’s residency in the Methow Valley is shorter — her family moved here full time in 2018 — but her parents married in the valley and the family has been visiting ever since, including watching many ’49er Days parades from the boardwalk. Her parents are key players in many of the Methow Valley’s nonprofit organizations, and both Zoe and her brother are students in the Methow Valley School District. Zoe is now a sophomore at Liberty Bell High School.
While Rio refers to herself as an “occasional” rider, Zoe is a more dedicated horsewoman. “I do Western pleasure riding,” she said. “I like to go on trail rides and I sometimes do events that focus on technique, but not speed events like barrel racing.” A member of 4-H, Zoe has taken her quarter horse, Kid, to the Okanogan County Fair.
Junior royalty members tend to be active, but this pair is particularly sporty, with both girls participating in three school sports. Both are on the basketball and track teams — although Zoe is taking this year off from track due to drama and ’49er Days commitments. Rio’s fall sport is volleyball while Zoe’s is cross-country.
The ’49er Days week itself will be a whirlwind for the junior royalty. Not only is ’49er Days in the middle of track season, but it is also opening weekend for the Liberty Bell Drama Company’s production of “Mamma Mia,” the musical, in which both girls have principal roles. Rio plays Rosie Mulligan, one of the three members of the girl band; Zoe is Harry Bright, one of the potential fathers of the protagonist, Sophie.
So in addition to Rio competing at the district track meet, the junior royalty team will have dress rehearsal and opening night for the play, spend some time in camp with the Ride to Rendezvous group, ride on horseback or in a carriage in the parade, and walk around Winthrop afterwards, interacting with locals and visitors and probably posing for a lot of photo requests.
Prior to that, they will visit Jamie’s Place, the Methow Valley Senior Center, Methow Valley Elementary School, the chambers of commerce, and Kiwanis, as well as participating in a radio interview.
This jam-packed schedule is one of the reasons chaperone Marva Mountjoy steered the girls toward selecting Victorian riding jackets instead of the traditional hoop-skirted dresses. Candy-apple red with black lace collars and ribbon lace-up backs, the jackets are striking and look reasonably comfortable for spending the day in the saddle, interacting with elementary school kids, or walking around Winthrop after the parade.
Despite being steeped in tradition, those involved in ’49er Days tend to accommodate junior royalty members’ desires to reflect their own fashion sense and personality. In 2021, ’49er Days princesses Madi Surface and Hannah Binning elected to wear button-up jackets over long straight skirts. The 2023 junior royalty team’s outfits take this sartorial sense one step closer to functional while still retaining the necessary element of fabulous.
Of the traditional dresses, usually hand-made with yards upon yards of fabric, Mountjoy said “Jackets are way more reasonable. Those big dresses are hard to make and even harder to buy.” Indeed, last year one set of dresses ordered was so unflattering and poorly made that they had to be returned. (“They looked like sacks,” one junior royalty member said.) Instead, the junior royalty members wore dresses borrowed from previous queens and princesses from the 1990s.
Mountjoy did acknowledge, however, that if former princess Brooke Bourn had been able to put her hands on her own ’49er Days dress, it’s likely that Rio would be wearing it this year.
The girls were diplomatic about their outfits. “If the ’49er Days committee chose dresses, we’d happily have worn them,” they said.
The discussion about apparel is indicative of the easy, open relationship between the junior royalty and the committee members. The ’49er Days committee interactions feel more like collaborations than mandates, both girls said. “They made the application process and interview really easy,” Rio said. “It felt more like a conversation than an interview.”
“I was nervous but they made it go smoothly,” Zoe said.
Both girls are looking forward to the opportunity to represent their community in the ’49er Days festivities. Zoe reflected on what it will be like to be a part of ’49er Days, as opposed to a spectator. “I’ve always seen it from an outsider perspective,” she said. “It will be fun to be inside it.”
“I used to be in the parade when I was little,” Rio said. “My grandma would have a float, we’d go to all the events and meet all the people. I’m excited to carry forward that legacy.”