When Mary Kay Brancheau donned the sash of 2010 El Dorado Rose last summer, she wore it with joy and commitment.
Like all Roses, she was flattered by the honor, knowing that the other candidates were marvelous women, too. Brancheau loved her Rose Court, which included her running mates, Sandy Kowalski and Kathy Walters. The Rose Court includes all Roses, Golden Roses and candidates since the Rose program began in 1986.
“Did I enjoy my year?” Brancheau exclaimed with her usual charm and exuberance. “It was marvelous.”
With her radiant smile and youthful appearance, Brancheau seemed too young to be a Rose. But she had attained the august age of 67, and one only needs to be 60 to become El Dorado Rose. Nowadays, the 60th decade is still youthful, but Brancheau’s youngness embodies both spirit and looks.
Her smile graced the pages of the Mountain Democrat when Bob Billingsley announced the honor at the Rose Pageant last summer. Impeccably dressed in an authentic 1895 traveling “suite,” Brancheau accepted the sash from the gracious and down-to-earth 2009 El Dorado Rose, Roni Pettibone.
“The great thing about being a candidate for El Dorado Rose is that it honors the person you have become, not what you aspire to be,” said Brancheau, who continues to teach exercise classes in Cameron Park and Placerville.
For Brancheau, her year as El Dorado Rose was the culmination of a lifetime of service and a highlight of a life filled with love for her husband, her children, her students, her community and her heritage.
Filled with honor
Many of the Roses look so exquisite, like Brancheau, that it is like being in the presence of royalty or gracious, glamorous movie stars. While their outer beauty and personality charm is fetching, it is character that makes one eligible to be a Rose.
“Roses are judged on many attributes,” explained Brancheau. “One must be at least 60, have volunteer experience in the community, knowledge of history and also a personable demeanor doesn’t hurt, either. But by the time you are eligible to be a Rose, you have experience and life skills you never dreamed you’d be recognized for.”
One of the most memorable things about being a Rose, Brancheau said, was being in the presence of other Roses and being part of the entire community.
“As a Rose, I’ve met so many nice, caring people throughout our county who have genuine interest and are invested in promoting El Dorado County’s rich heritage, business opportunities, our amazing and varied recreational activities and our own ‘small town’ family-friendly lifestyle.”
The daughter of the Bagleys who owned a popular fabric store, Brancheau lived most of her life in Placerville and walked the walk of a concerned citizen long before she became El Dorado County’s premier ambassadress in 2010.
“One of my most favorite things about being Rose was going to ribbon cuttings for new businesses. I especially admired people opening new businesses. This leap of faith is the epitome of the true entreprenurial spirit. As El Dorado County’s official hostess, it was an honor to participate in these events.”
Filled with fun
For Brancheau, one of the most fun endeavors was being included in all community events, including parades.
“What could be more fun than riding in a float in a parade? Spirits are high, the mood’s festive and everyone’s having a good time,” Brancheau enthused.
The Roses add a delightful presence to some of El Dorado County’s most revered events, including the Wagon Train and the Butterfly Concert.
The Roses were instrumental in 2002 when Placerville won the “Most Wonderful Community” designation by the Great Race that went through the county. While all cities and towns were hospitable, the Roses added special panache and hospitality to Placerville. Along with Miss El Dorado and Miss Teen El Dorado, the charm of the Roses made Placerville among their most memorable and delightful stops, which inspired the Great Race judges to give Placerville the accolade, along with a check.
Brancheau’s charm and good will added flair to El Dorado County events in 2010 and 2011, but she gives all the credit to the entire Rose Court.
Filled with love
“I consider the Ladies of the Court to be dear friends. We had the opportunity to really get to know one another while attending many events throughout the year. Our Golden Rose, Vivian Carpender, attended several functions with us, and her presence was always an inspiration to us all. I consider the friendships that evolved throughout this past year as a gift.”
Since Brancheau took her ambassadress/hostess duties to heart, she was present at as many functions as she could manage. Though she remains very active and she exercises regularly, Brancheau’s osteo-arthritis was sometimes a challenge.
“Honestly, my osteo-arthritis didn’t prevent me from participating in Rose activities. I’ve always been involved in activities that involved trauma to the joints, which probably contributed to it,” Brancheau said.
But now she has found that eating even healthier than she used to has many benefits, including reducing inflammation. Brancheau imparts this information with typical graciousness, and no hint of preaching, but it is important for people to take control of their health options.
“I’m enjoying my new way of eating,” Brancheau said. “With whole foods, increased fluid intake etc., I felt relief within a few days.I was always aware of eating healthy and of course, have always exercised. But now I’m eating more healthily than ever … and I’ve found that I actually enjoy this new way of eating. I’ve found I like oatmeal with fresh fruit, and sugar cravings have been greatly reduced; there’s lots of information on the Internet on how healthier eating habits can reduce inflammation. And I found it to be true, so I encourage others to look into it. ”
An unexpected benefit to Brancheau’s healthy diet was to shed a few pounds, which wouldn’t seem to be pertinent to this svelte lady, but appreciated nonetheless.
“I’m really trying, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t cheat sometimes,” Brancheau laughs delightfully. “But it’s really been a blessing.”
Filled with joy
Wherever Brancheau goes, she seems to bring sunshine. It is the kind of sunshine and inner nutrients that seems to imbue all of the Roses with caring and charm.
That is the kind of evening Brancheau expects at the Rose Ball, a gala filled with fellow Roses and other wonderful people in El Dorado County who come together for the common good.
Like her fellow candidates, Kathy Walters and Sandy Kowalski who will attend the Rose Ball also, Brancheau will be dressed in the part of El Dorado County’s premier ambassadress. Her smile, her charm and gracious presence, along with the other Roses, will make attending the gala event this Saturday, May 21, night a joy for everyone.
The Rose Ball, featuring the Easy Sounds Band, is at the American Legion Hall, 4561 Greenstone Road, Placerville, The doors open at 6:45 p.m. The cost is $25 and includes catered supper. To attend call 530-626-4949.
Like all members of the community, she looks forward to welcoming the next Golden Rose into the venerable garden.
The magnificent outfit she wore when she was awarded the sash of El Dorado Rose 2010 was borrowed, so it will not be worn again. But she will be wearing a gorgeous vintage costume for this year’s Rose Pageant.
Brancheau is fond and impressed by all the 2011 candidates, and appreciates that the judges will, once again, be faced with a formidable and difficult decision. And when she “crowns” the 2011 El Dorado Rose with the sash of honor this June 16, she will do it with joy and love.
Brancheau may be a hard act to follow, but she will always be an integral part of the Rose Court, a veritable garden of Roses: magnificent women who represent the best of El Dorado County.