A queen returns to her royal home

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BY BRADY RHOADES: Fifty eight years after she represented her city at the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival as a beauty queen, Marie Whistler is returning.

The Colorado resident has been asked to ride in the opening day parade.

“I’m ready for anything!” she said.

It was 1960 when Whistler spent a weekend at the festival, shortly before getting her diploma as a member of the first graduating class of Bolsa Grande High.

BY BRADY RHOADES: Fifty eight years after she represented her city at the Garden Grove Strawberry Festival as a beauty queen, Marie Whistler is returning.

The Colorado resident has been asked to ride in the opening day parade.

“I’m ready for anything!” she said.

It was 1960 when Whistler spent a weekend at the festival, shortly before getting her diploma as a member of the first graduating class of Bolsa Grande High.

The festival was in its early stages. Let’s just say it didn’t draw the estimated 300,000 that it does these days.

“It was very small and very sweet and it was nice,” said Whistler, 76.

There were just five or six rides, and the net profit that year was a tidy $1,500.

Who was the celebrity grand marshal?

“They were supposed to have Jayne Mansfield but she didn’t show up,” Whistler laughed.

Her journey to the festival started when she entered the Miss Garden Grove contest.

Her motive?

“The whole idea of getting a new bathing suit was very appealing,” she said. Traditionally, Miss Garden Grove and her court all received bathing suits

On stage as one of 15 finalists, Whistler “was dreaming about going to the beach in my bathing suit.”

She finished as a runner-up.

This year’s 60th annual Strawberry Festival will be held May 25-28 in downtown Garden Grove. Mickey Mouse is the celebrity grand marshal, and the theme is, “Sixty Years of Having Fun and Funding Charities.” For more information, visit www.strawberryfestival.org.

Whistler moved away from Garden Grove long ago. She now lives with her husband in Colorado Springs. They’ve traveled the world together. She also takes mother-daughter trips with her daughter, Carie, checking off items on her bucket list, such as coming back to Orange County and enjoying Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott’s Berry Farm.

The grandmother of two will arrive in her home-town next week. She still seems to have the energy and enthusiasm of an 18-year-old.

“The whole thing is beyond anything I could have imagined,” she said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the historical photo, Whistler is second from right.