Talking with the Tulip Queen

tulips queen 2016 Adaviah Ward

Albany's annual Tulip Festival is this weekend, and a new Tulip Queen will be crowned on Saturday.

That means the reign of the current Tulip Queen -- Adaviah Ward -- is about to end. "If anything, it's ignited a fire in me to get, and be, involved even more and keep a presence within the community," she said this week about the past year.

Ward is an Albany native who grew up in Arbor Hill and the South End, graduated from Albany High School, and is working on a liberal arts degree at HVCC with a plan to continue on at Saint Rose for an elementary education degree.

We got a chance to talk with Ward for a few minutes about the experience of being the Tulip Queen -- how it's affected the way she sees the city, what she'll remember, and what it's like to be a local celebrity.

So now that your reign is almost over, what are you going to take from this experience?

I'm definitely going to take the community involvement. I was already involved in the community, but this has given me a lot more open doors and shown me a lot more places in the city that need help and assistance, mainly in underserved communities where there aren't a lot of people coming out to do outreach programs.

So, if anything, it's ignited a fire in me to be involved even more and keep a presence within the community.

Are there specific experiences or events that you're going to look back at and really remember?

One of the first events we did was at Teresian House, and we did a meet and greet with a lot of the seniors who lived there. And that was absolutely amazing, because we were able to spend time with them -- some of them not having friends or family to visit them -- and just being able to learn about some of their experiences in the city of the Albany.

I ran into a few people who had been on the Tulip Court before, or had interviewed to be on the Tulip Court, so that was amazing to know that these living legends are still around.

"I was a Tulip Queen. That's now part of my legacy, and I get to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a lot of queens who came before me and paved the way for me to be here now. And that's definitely a wowing experience and it gives me butterflies all over again."

It is kind of cool that you're now part of this long string of people that runs through the city.

Yeah, and I think about that: I was a Tulip Queen. That's now part of my legacy, and I get to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a lot of queens who came before me and paved the way for me to be here now. And that's definitely a wowing experience and it gives me butterflies all over again.

What has the day-to-day experience of being the Tulip Queen been like?

It's been eventful. One of the things that we've been focused on is our literacy program, and that is something we've been doing weekly in the schools and after-school programs in the city of Albany. So we've been busy with that. And just different events -- ribbon cuttings, places where the mayor has to go, we usually attend even if we don't have to just to show our face and our support for her as she supports us. So it's been pretty busy -- eventful.

What's it been like being a celebrity?

It's interesting. Because sometimes I'll be places and a person will be like, 'I think I know you...' Me? You don't know little old me. Then they're just like, 'No, you're the...' And I'm like, "Tulip Queen?' And they're like, 'Yeah!'

So, it's just like, wow, people really do recognize you from all the newspaper clips and the news. So, it's kind of cool, people being able to refer to me as this person they hear about often.

So, are there any perks that go along with that?

I went to Starbucks after one event -- I think it was a Polish festival -- and I just so happened to have my sash on. The guy was like, 'You're not the Tulip Queen.' And I said, I am. And he was like, 'Oh, then here, everything's on me.'

So, I did get a free frappe, and I was kind of excited about that! (laughing) Starbucks, oh yeah! I was kind of excited.

As you look to the future, what do you hope to happen for yourself and the city?

I would definitely like to keep involved in the community on a different level, really seeing where the needs are and trying to do my best, as a person in the city of Albany, to meet those needs. This definitely gives me a renewed vigor to open a community center.

I currently co-teach 4th grade -- elementary education has always been my passion -- so this program I've been able to utilize in school and give young girls something and someone to look up to. So keeping that stature of being someone that people can follow in a positive light in the community, especially in the Arbor Hill and South End areas.

When you talk to those kids at the school and they find our you're the Tulip Queen, what's their reaction?

They kind of beat me to the punch. I'll come and they'll be like, 'You're the Tulip Queen!' Or, 'I saw you on TV this day,' or 'I saw you on TV that day.' And, 'When I googled your name, you were the Tulip Queen.' And it's something that they're proud of, to say that, oh, my teacher is the Tulip Queen -- or I know the Tulip Queen personally.

So, it's something they honor and really like to use. And when people ask, who's your teacher? They're like, 'My teacher is the Tulip Queen. You don't know who that is?"

This interview has been edited and condensed.

+ What it was like to reign as one of Albany's first Tulip Queens


Awww, this make my heart happy.

Me too. I love this tradition.

I'm very proud of you and the good job you've done throughout the year! Keep up the good work! Congratulations and may God continue to bless you!

To watch our Tulip Queen this past year has been uplifting and amazing. She carried her crown with integrity and represented our city well. I made the court YEARS ago. However, watching Adaviah grow allowed me and my daughter to experience up front and personal the walk of a true queen!!! Amazing article about an amazing young lady. We salute you Adaviah!! Aunty loves you.

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