The furor over the transformation of the Disney’s Meredith figure from a ‘rough tough independent girl’ into “just another princess“ is propelling “the other kind of princess” movement forward. A six year-old independent Princess startup is gaining popularity. Started in 2008 by Ron Hatfield a grandfather of 50 grandchildren who was trying to find something fun for the grandkids to do, Princess Festival is an empowering and fun adventure event for young girls, which continues to increase in popularity.
“With several second marriages in our family we ended up with 50 grandkids, 37 of which are wonderful independent girls,” said Hatfield. “I had built a 6,000 square foot castle on our estate years earlier and thought, ‘why not a princess event?’”
For the first event 371 girls came and Hatfield donated the money to charity, but more importantly, everyone had fun and asked to have it repeated the following year. The second year Hatfield’s team planned on 900 girls but they turned away requests after 1,400 were admitted. More importantly, an executive from Radio Disney visited the site and made it very clear that some of Disney’s intellectual property was being used without a license. Hatfield said, “Disney is pretty careful and tough, but it was the best thing that could have happened to us”.
Hatfield engaged his volunteer team to begin developing a NEW KIND of Princess and the Princess Festival theme and its unique characters were born.
Hatfield explained, “Long before Meredith and the other new princesses of Disney were introduced, the beginnings of Princesses: Ilissa, Mila, Sonrisa, Maurine, Kadesia, Lilianna, Sefina, and MiLing Sue all started to coming into the lives of little girls. In contrast to the typical princess approach, they have a beauty side, but their real story is about their unique personalities.”
Hatfield refers to the characters as “Adventure Princesses”, explaining that most classical princesses are poor souls in need of help and rescue. They seek a kind face in the crowd to reach out and give them hope or refuge. They find refuge with bears & dwarfs, have sympathetic mice make coaches for them while their lives consist of avoiding evil deceiving step mothers, wolves and others.
Princess Festival princesses are girls who are taught how to develop self-confidence and skills that equip them to be able to do hard things. They look for opportunities to serve. They also fit the second half of the quote: “The strong can help themselves, the stronger help others”.
Hatfield says that Sheryl Sandberg would be a very good Princess Festival Princess. Real, comfortable with who she is, kind, a good friend, educable, caring and tough as nails on the important stuff.
Drs. Sterling Bone and Deanne Brocato, of the Huntsman Business School at Utah State University, are conducting research with their colleague Dr. Tracy Suter of Oklahoma State University regarding this new approach. Dr. Bone is reticent to deliver any conclusive data until their work is published but has publically stated that the Princess Festival slogan of “More than a Princess” proposing that a real Princess should care about others and give service resonates very well with parents and girls.
2013 attendance includes 15,000 guests from all over the world. Princess Festival plans to bring events to several new cities in 2014.
Hatfield advises that the event runs through June 29th and their “spectacular Princesses of Everley Masquerade Ball” (a separate event) culminates the event on the evening of June 29th.