Thursday, May 23, 2024

Linda Bradshaw named 2024 Royal Lady of the Autumn Leaves

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LEAVENWORTH – Linda Bradshaw was officially revealed as the 2024 Royal Lady of the Autumn Leaves during the traditional Royal Lady Gala on Mar. 5. The anointed Royal Lady has a busy year ahead of her, representing Leavenworth in nine different festival parades across the northwest while also attending her home festivities. 

“It's really thrilling to be asked. I mean, I'm representing my hometown,” said Bradshaw. 

Bradshaw’s tour will commence at the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee, followed by Leavenworth’s Maifest. Then, the Royal Lady and her parade team will travel to Spokane, New Westminster, B.C., Portland, Marysville, Cashmere, Olympia, Seattle, and Penticton, B.C., until wrapping up her tour at Leavenworth’s very own Autumn Leaf Festival in September.

While traveling as the Royal Lady may be new territory, Bradshaw has been involved with the Autumn Leaf festivities since 2017, when her best friend Cindy Hassinger was named the Royal Lady. Bradshaw traveled with Hassinger to the different parades, then helped design pins, build the floats, and served on the Royal Bavarian Council in subsequent years. 

“It's fun. It's exciting…You’re going to different places where you can share what your community is like and you see other people have great communities too. But ours is the best,” joked Bradshaw. “Everybody knows Leavenworth and everybody wants to do the chicken dance with us, and the whole crowd shouts out, “We love Leavenworth!’” 

When Bradshaw got the call last fall asking her to be the 2024 Royal Lady, she was surprised, but honored. 

“It's not something that you ever campaign for…you just do it because you love it. You love the work, or you love the community, or you love the people. And so when they honor somebody, it's pretty special,” said Bradshaw.

Since its conception in 1964, the Autumn Leaf Festival has chosen women who have been influential in their service to the community, as a way to honor their involvement and best represent Leavenworth on the road. But as Bradshaw sees it, it’s also a nod to the history of women who helped save Leavenworth, including her mother-in-law, Ella Bradshaw. 

Ella was a part of the Vesta Junior Women's Club of Leavenworth. According to previous Echo reporting, the club formed in 1954, and was influential in passing a levy for a firehall, getting bonds approved to build a new high school, and cleaning up the city park and cemetery. The club helped launch Project L.I.F.E. in 1962, which started the conversation about revitalizing the city with a theme to attract tourism, which the town would decide to be Bavarian years later.

Their largest impact was in 1964, when the club won $10,000 for the town in a competition sponsored by the General Federation of Women's Clubs and the Sears Roebuck Foundation. The win helped give Leavenworth the economic boost and publicity it needed to get the ball rolling. The win that year coincided with the founding of the town’s first and oldest festival, the Autumn Leaf Festival. The following year, the town took the leap to adopt the Bavarian theme, making the town what it is today.

“I don't think any of us would be here. It would just be another spot in the road if it wasn't a Bavarian village,” said Bradshaw.

Bradshaw has called the Bavarian village home since 1990. She is originally from Vancouver, WA, but her husband grew up in Leavenworth. Bradshaw had always lived in cities, so when they moved back to his hometown over 30 years ago, she didn’t know what to expect from a small town of 1,700 people.

“I thought, Oh, this is going to be interesting…I fell in love with it,” said Bradshaw.

Bradshaw immediately immersed herself in the town. She joined the board for Leavenworth Summer Theater, served as the president of the former Upper Valley Arts, sang in Village Voices, and led walking tours with her husband for the museum. Later, she managed the hospital’s billing office. 

“There are so many opportunities. I like to tell people when they move to Leavenworth: you could be busy every single day with different organizations,” said Bradshaw.

Over the last thirty years, Bradshaw has watched the city grow and change, sharing the community’s frustrations over parking and crowding. However, she’s chosen to embrace the change, and appreciate the longstanding magic created by the generations before her.

“My husband and I live just a few blocks from town, so we like to go downtown and just walk the streets and it feels, in that moment, like you're on vacation. You're in a special place…I personally think it's very exciting what we've done to Leavenworth,” said Bradshaw.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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