THE trip to Altona, Canada, was an eye-opening experience for Central Highlands Sunflower Queen Anna Rixon.
Not only did she speak in front of thousands and crown the 2017 Canadian Sunflower Queen, it was the first time Anna had been overseas.
As part of her duties of being crowned queen at the Central Highlands Sunflower Festival at Easter, Anna, along with her mum Fiona and first princess Jacinda Fehlhaber and her fiance Kris Stefaniuk, travelled to the Canadian province of Manitoba.
"Together we embarked on the journey of a lifetime, sharing amazing experiences, memories and making friendships for life,” she said.
"This, being my first overseas trip, has really opened my eyes as to how much the world really has to offer.
"The incredible scenery that I experienced and the warm welcoming and friendly people really made the trip something to remember.”
The experience started with a 17-hour journey that landed Anna and her mum in Winnipeg, where they were greeted by 2016 Canadian Sunflower Queen Tiana Reimer and her mum Roxanne.
"As we made our way to the sunflower town of Altona, we gained our first real look into the incredible scenery that Canada had to offer,” Anna said.
"After settling in, I was treated to a fun-filled week of festivities, sightseeing, cultural history, food and, best of all, getting to meet the wonderful people of Altona.”
Anna said her schedule was filled with meeting dignitaries and touring historical landmarks, as well as sampling local dishes.
"We were also lucky enough to be treated to a Mennonite buffet made by my host family, the Reimers,” she said.
"There were many new and interesting foods I got to indulge in that showed to me that culture and history is very important to the community of Canada, very much like us here in the Central Highlands.
"I was privileged enough to be interviewed by Altona's very own Radio Station CFAM 950, where I gave an insight into my travels so far, my responsibilities back home in the Central Highlands and what I was most looking forward to from the week of royal duties and festivities.”
The week culminated in a dance and fashion show parade where they performed choreographed routines, followed by the formal walks and the crowning of Canada's 2017 Sunflower Festival royalty.
"As part of Canada's festivities, the contestants were required to perform as part of three group routines for the dance and fashion show,” Anna explained.
"First, princess Jacinda Fehlhaber and I were invited to participate in the fashion show.
"We were given three topics which we were required to dress up as - our favourite TV show, something Canadian and a sponsor category.
"Once we compiled our character list, we selected our costumes and were taught three choreographed routines over the period of three to four days.
"Then the day came to perform the routines at the stage show that was open to viewing by the public on the day of the sunflower parade and crowning.”
As Morgan Klassen was named Sunflower Queen and Taylor Wiebe the first princess, Anna said she was honoured to speak in front of the thousands of people who attended the crowning, "bringing sister city Altona, Manitoba, and the Central Highlands together as one”.
"The memories and friendships that I have made I will cherish forever,” she said.
"The experiences I have gained have helped me to become a more confident young woman.
"I look forward to hosting all our Canadian royalty and their families and showing them what the beautiful Central Highlands has to offer during the 2018 Easter Sunflower Festival week.”
A favourite memory from the trip for Anna was seeing the young children getting involved in the festivities.
"I remember riding in the carriage and even walking around after the festival parade and having young children asking if they could have a photo with myself, 'the queen of Australia',” she said.
"During intervals of the stage show, live bands were performing and all contestants and myself were dancing with the young children.
"The smiles of enjoyment on their faces said it all.
"It just goes to show how much these young children really do look up to these young inspirational women, knowing that one day they too can become a part of the Sunflower Festival family.”
Since returning from her first trip overseas, Anna has been involved in many local events.
"This includes attending the Relay for Life as part of Dad's Army, which was made up of mostly local RSL members and their families.
"The RSL was my local charity who I chose to raise funds for throughout my Sunflower Quest.
"I was honoured to be invited to the Vietnam day service, followed by the unveiling of the new cabinets that hold the RSL and war memorabilia that once was displayed at the Emerald Memorial Club many years ago.
"I thoroughly encourage everyone to go down and take the time to view these beautiful displays that are located at the Emerald Bowls Club.
"I am extremely proud to know that the funds I raised throughout my quest have heavily contributed to the construction and installation of this important part of our history.”
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