The spend one calendar year representing Richfield’s Hometown 4th of July Celebration. Did you ever wonder what it is they actually do? Read on …
According to current Ambassador Molly Coughlin, “The role of a Richfield Ambassador is to represent the city of Richfield and our throughout the state of Minnesota. As an ambassador, you are the face of Richfield’s Fourth of July for a whole year! People who see you in parades or talk to you at community events look to you to show them why Richfield’s Fourth of July is so great and why they should come be a part of it.”
Every July five young people from Richfield are chosen to spend the year as goodwill ambassadors. Three are ages 17-21 and two are called junior ambassadors; they are in grades K-2nd. They are chosen as part of the candidate program which takes place April through coronation which is usually July 5. The candidates spend this time learning more about Richfield, volunteering, and finding out what an ambassador actually does. The candidates then go through a judging process, are selected by an outside panel of judges, and are announced at coronation.
Over the years this process has changed. Originally only one young woman was chosen and that was based on who sold the most 4th of July buttons. Eventually two princesses were also crowned making it a royal party of three. In the mid 90s the title of "Ambassador" was added to emphasize the fact that this is not a beauty pageant but an educational scholarship program based on poise and personality. More recent changes include the addition of one, then two junior ambassadors as well as getting rid of the title of Queen and Princess making all ambassadors an equal team.
So what do these ambassadors actually do all year long? They spend their year attending events, volunteering, and learning through an internship. One of the biggest roles of the ambassadors is to travel all over Minnesota and Wisconsin to share the goodwill and friendliness of Richfield. They do this through riding in other towns' parades on the Richfield float, attending other towns' coronations where they can invite everyone to spend the 4th in Richfield, and volunteering with groups in other communities.
As a past ambassador I can tell you that almost every parade I rode in, someone would inevitably yell, “Hey I’m from Richfield” or “I love to be in Richfield on the 4th.” That small town feel is evident even while riding in a parade in Princeton, MN or beating out other ambassadors at the North Hudson Pepperfest Spaghetti Eating Contest. According to Ambassador Michele Heinecke, “The greatest thing I have done (this year) is getting to meet people I otherwise would not have, and have built a better bond with those around me.”
There are literally hundreds of other ambassadors in Minnesota, who also represent their city and festival. As Molly states, “The best part about the Richfield Ambassador Program is that not long after being a part of this unique Ambassador community, you realize that the events you most enjoy are the ones where you meet new people and learn something about other communities, regardless of whether you’re wearing a crown or not. The people who support Ambassador Programs and those who proudly represent their communities are why I knew I wanted to be a part of this program.”
One of the best parts of being an ambassador is all of the amazing volunteer opportunities that are part of the year. From putting medals on the necks of the Special Olympics’ Athletes to painting faces at the Half Haunted Halloween, it’s being able to give back in and around Richfield that means the most.
Over the years the ambassadors have been part of many events and have also helped raise money for local organizations. Working at the annual or the Member Appreciation Vents allows the ambassadors to give back to the amazing organizations and businesses we have in Richfield. Serving root beer floats at the Fire Department Open House or making wacky hair at the school carnivals allow the ambassadors to interact with the amazing people living in Richfield. And of course volunteering at all the 4th of July Celebration events ensure that these fun events will continue. To Michele being an ambassador means being able to give back to the community that she has grown up in and is proud to be part of.
The older ambassadors also participate in an internship. In past years this has been with businesses and organizations but is currently done with the all-volunteer Richfield 4th of July Committee. Each ambassador picks an area they are interested in, such as the parade or fundraising, and then they get to help plan that event. This allows the ambassadors to gain valuable skills that will help them out later in life. Through this program and internship, Molly mentions how “going into college next year and having to meet many people I’ve never talked to before will be a lot less scary knowing that talking with people I’ve only just met has been my life for the past year.”
also credits this program with making him “less shy” stating that he too can now talk to people he doesn’t know.
When asked about why she became part of this program, Molly had this to say:
“Until I became a part of the ambassador community (because that’s what it really is, a family-like-community of ambassadors), I had no idea it existed! I mean I’ve always seen the girls with crowns waving from their floats at parades, but it wasn’t until I joined this program that I learned how vast and significant ambassador programs are. It’s a small world in the sense that everywhere you go, you meet someone who is connected some way to an Ambassador program. But it’s also a big world for that very same reason. Once you’re an ambassador, you’re an ambassador for life and I know that the other ambassadors I’ve met through my reign, who’ve become my second set of best friends, will always be in my life somehow. I know I’ll see them again. My goal is to live life with no regrets and I will never, ever regret devoting a year to represent Richfield.”
Look for future articles about the Richfield Ambassador Program, the current Ambassadors, and notable past Ambassadors.