Maxine Ambrose, queen of the 2018 Camas Days festival, is no stranger to royalty — her parents, Earl and Fae Miller, were the very first Camas Days king and queen and she herself was the Junior Queen of the 1940 Paper Festival.
But the new honor hasn’t quite hit her, yet.
“I don’t feel like a queen,” Ambrose says, laughing. “Maybe after the coronation.”
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) Camas-Washougal will host the 2018 Camas Days Queen Coronation at 7 p.m., Wednesday, July 18, at Columbia Ridge Senior Living, 2300 W. Ninth St., Washougal. The coronation, with dessert reception, is open to the public. Tickets cost $5.
Ambrose will dine like a queen a second time during the Camas Days festivities: Following the Camas Days Parade on Saturday, July 28, the GFWC Camas-Washougal will host a luncheon for the 2018 queen and former Camas Days royalty.
For Ambrose, the honor marks the culmination of a life devoted to making her hometown a better place.
Born in Camas in 1930, Ambrose is a 1948 Camas High graduate who has only spent about five years away from the town that shaped her.
“After high school I went to San Francisco,” Ambrose says. “I ventured out. I had to see the world.”
She worked in the insurance industry and made some lasting memories with friends from the big city, but says she felt called back to Camas after meeting and marrying her husband, Bob Ambrose.
“I wanted to raise my children in Camas,” Ambrose says. “Back then, nobody worried about going out and running around. It was much smaller … but we did have three pharmacies in town, and a couple dime stores.”
While her husband Bob worked as a pharmacist in Portland, Ambrose stayed in Camas to raise the couple’s children and become an avid volunteer.
Over the years, this Camas Days queen has volunteered her time with the Inter-Faith Treasure House, Soroptimist International of Camas-Washougal, the Camas-Washougal Historical Society, the Two Rivers Heritage Museum, the Lost and Found Cafe, Friends of the Cemetery, Boy Scouts and her children’s’ school PTAs. Ambrose also has been a member of the United Methodist Church of Camas for 50 years.
“I like to keep busy. If I didn’t, I’d be climbing the walls,” Ambrose says. “I’m not going to be happy when they take my car away.”
When her husband was still alive — Bob Ambrose died in 1999 — the couple traveled frequently, often visiting Bob’s family in Czechoslovakia or daughter Shelly in Hawaii. Ambrose says she particularly liked visiting Germany.
“We traveled a lot when Bob was still alive,” Ambrose says. “I still do. … I visit my children (in California and Idaho). And I used to visit my stepdaughter in Hawaii.”
The couple raised three children, Teri, Mike and Shelly, and Ambrose now has four grandchildren ages 13 to 30, and an 11-month-old great-grandchild.
As a young girl, Ambrose remembers being named the Junior Queen of the 1940 Paper Festival. In a photo taken the day of the big event, she stands in a paper crown, wearing a billowing white paper dress.
“My mother made the dress,” Ambrose says. “I don’t remember what kind of paper it was, but it felt OK. I didn’t worry about it (tearing).”
The boys’ outfits, however, were a different story.
“They were wearing crepe paper,” Ambrose says of the 1940 Paper Festival princes and junior king. “That would have been bad in the rain!”
Speaking of clothing, Ambrose says that’s the one thing still on her mind when it comes to the Camas Days festivities: “What am I going to wear?”
And while this year will be Ambrose’s first as queen, it is definitely not her first trip to the rodeo.
“I’ve never missed a Camas Days,” Ambrose says. “I just like the excitement of it.”
In one of her nomination letters to the GFWC Camas-Washougal, a fan of Ambrose’s summed up why Ambrose deserves the queen’s crown: “Maxine’s commitment to helping the community and residents of Camas is extraordinary. She exemplifies over 51 years of service to Camas and 50 years to her church community. Maxine represents what is best about Camas: a small town with a large heart.”