Daughter of Sandy Mountain Festival bear dons tiara for parade
For a 6-year-old, Taylor Heller has a fairly extensive history with the Sandy Mountain Festival. She has ridden in the parade — on one float or another — every year since she was born.
And now she's the Sandy Mountain Festival Princess.
Her mother, Jenni Heller, was the backstage coordinator for the festival for two years, and attended the festival every year growing up in Sandy. Both of Taylor's parents have worked for Safeway and represented the store on its annual festival float.
This granted Taylor and her older brother, Landon, an early look into the royal treatment and a spot in the parade. Landon, as "Sir Brother Bear" will accompany Taylor as her escort.
"I've gone to (the festival) ever since I could remember," Jenni explains. "It was always my favorite time of year."
Taylor has provided a smile and a wave to many a festival-goer serving as a greeter with her father Cole Heller, who — spoiler alert — is the man in the bear suit every year.
Even with all of the attention and special responsibilities that being a festival princess brings, Taylor still looks forward most to walking around with her dad.
A first-grader at East Orient Elementary School in Gresham, Taylor likes playing softball and spending time with her 8-month-old foster brother, Caydon. She enjoys the time with Caydon so much in fact that she aspires to be a "kid doctor" (pediatrician) — and possibly a veterinarian, at the same time.
"I like kids," she says of her inclination to care for children when she grows up.
With limited ability at this juncture to act on her dream of entering the medical field, Taylor's more immediate goal is simply to help people. Jenni says Taylor has often asked if she and her friends could spend her birthday picking up trash around town.
"Everybody can go," Taylor exclaims, using the moment to make another plea to her mother. "(I want to clean-up) because it helps the planet."
When she grows up, Taylor says she wants to remain in Sandy.
"I like Sandy," she explains. "I want to live in our old house. It has the gym here, (and) I have a lot of friends out here."
Despite her parade experience, Taylor has never been featured alone in the event.
"I'm kind of nervous," she admits. "There's going to be a lot of people."