Helen June Goodman

By Gretchen Eichenberg

Festival on the Brazos Queen 2023

Pictured: Photo by Doug Fitzjarrell

Helen June Goodman will be crowned queen at the 53rd annual Festival on the Brazos Friday, April 28, 2023 at University High School’s Performing Arts Center. Helen is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Somers Watlington Goodman. She is granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas George Chase, Jr. of Waco; the late Michael William Goodman and Ana Maria Carratu Goodman of Miami, Florida; and Dr. Marion Watlington and Mr. Peter Vorley of Somerset, Bermuda.

A creative, hardworking and independent high school senior, Helen will surely feel at home being crowned on the stage of a local high school theatre. The community aspect is what she enjoys most about participating in theatre — so combining the two will be a natural fit during Festival on the Brazos.

“I love the fact that so many volunteers come together to make something — and that it couldn’t happen without each individual making that effort,” Helen said. “A lot of people think theatre, especially when you’re acting, is about being the star and getting the accolades for that. But the best theatre I’ve been a part of has been a team. When everyone is putting their best on stage, it isn’t that there’s an amazing lead or a beautiful set — it’s just a great show.”

Helen hails from a line of Wacoans and local festival royalty. Her mother, Felicia Chase Goodman, was Queen in 1991, and her uncle, Thomas George Chase III, was an escort in 1988. Helen’s cousin, Ellie Chase, was Queen in 2018 and her cousin, Claire Chase, was a Princess in 2016. Felicia has served on many festival committees over the years, chairing program, tickets, facilitation and educational outreach.

Love of learning

Helen is a senior at Waco High School where she is a member of National Honor Society, a WISD Academic Achiever, a WISD Superintendent’s Scholar and is an AP Scholar with Distinction. She has been involved in Student Council, is president of the International Thespian Society and is a member of the Gender Sexuality Alliance. Her favorite subject, Helen said, is history, because of the importance it holds in peoples’ lives today.

“I think trying to understand the complete history of our community and the world we live in is incredibly important to understanding the world we live in now,” Helen said.

In that vein, Helen’s family has chosen to honor this year’s Festival on the Brazos court with a donation to the historic William Decker Johnson Hall renovation project on the former Paul Quinn Campus in Waco. Paul Quinn College, founded in 1872 by recently freed enslaved African Americans, was the first institution of higher education for African Americans west of the Mississippi and the oldest HBCU (Historically Black College/University) in Texas owned and operated by Blacks. Since a key part of Festival on the Brazos is celebrating the history of Waco, this seemed like a perfect way to connect an important historical project with the celebratory weekend.

James Yasko, Helen’s AP US History and AP European History teacher, she said, has always encouraged her to look further into the questions she has about his classes, and has helped her to find the answers.

“He’s helped me to become a better student and critical thinker,” Helen said, “and the discussions that are encouraged within his class have helped me to better understand the world around me.”

Husband-wife team Ashley Elizabeth and Edward Vermeulen Wise have each helped Helen to grow as a person and a student through the theatre program, she said.

“In their classes, and while doing theatre under their direction, I’ve been pushed to grow and change positively, whether through individual efforts or ensemble building,” Helen said. “As teachers, they’ve helped show me how to work more effectively as a team, and in doing that, shaped my leadership and collaboration skills.”

When it comes to costume design, Helen said she enjoys making the show flow together, and making it all fall into place.

“I love making each character have their own individual flair, while still making them look like they belong in that world,” Helen said, “whether it’s an enchanted forest or a high school in the 90s.”

This fall, Helen will attend Barnard College at Columbia University.

“I’m excited to explore New York and meet people I never would have had the chance to meet,” Helen said. “Being so far away from home is a little scary for me, but I also know that the new experiences I’ll have on my own will help shape the person I become.”

She has not yet decided on a major.

“I have so many interests that I love and want to explore,” Helen said. “Narrowing it down to one right now seems hasty, and I want to make the right choice. Part of why I chose Barnard is that it’s a liberal arts focused school — a place where I’ll try a lot of new things and get to explore what I already love in new ways. It has the giant resources of Columbia, with the small school women’s college feel that I loved.”

Serving her community

Helen said she believes it is important to learn the significance of community service early in life.

“By serving our community, we get to be a real part of it, actively participate in it,” Helen said. “If we don’t get involved in our community, and in trying to make it better, then how can we say we’re really a part of it? Serving our community helps us to learn leadership skills, experience our community in a new way and build an interest in serving in the future.”

Helen was a Symphony Belle and a member of National Charity League, but she said her favorite place to volunteer is at the Farmers Market.

“I volunteer weekly at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, and it is one of my favorite parts of my week,” Helen said. “I love seeing all the people who come to market, and getting to be more involved in my community.”

Fun and friends

A lot of Helen’s free time is spent working on theatre at her school, whether she is offstage or on. But, she enjoys other endeavors as well.

“I love to read and bake,” Helen said. “I actually wrote my college essay about baking. I love getting to be in a kitchen and to make new things out of a few simple ingredients.”

Helen said she loves spending time with her family.

“It really doesn’t matter much to me what we do,” she said, “just that I’m with the people I love.”

The Goodmans go to Colorado almost every summer.

“We go on a lot of hikes and spend a lot more time together as a family when we’re there,” Helen said. “Everyone in my family tends to be involved in multiple things throughout the year, so it’s nice when we get to have time with all four of us.”

Helen is an old soul who has a great sense of humor and laugh and is lots of fun to be around, her mother said.

“She is smart, interesting and reads more than anyone I know,” Felicia Goodman said. “She cares about the world around her and wants to make it a better place. She sees that things are not always as we wish they were, so it’s important to be a part of the solution.”

Helen enjoys the company of her friends. And when it comes to them, she looks for certain characteristics.

“When I become close friends with someone, one of the most important things I notice about them is how they treat the people they don’t consider friends,” Helen said. “The people I want to surround myself with are people who are friendly and welcoming to everyone, regardless of how close they feel to someone.”

Some of the things Helen values most in life:

“It’s so important to me to have a support system around me that is not just my relatives, but includes friends,” she said. “I value integrity and trying to always do the right thing, even if it’s not the beneficial one. Most of all, I value being exposed to ideas and lives that are different from my own.”

Life in Waco

Though she is about to take off for a big city, Helen said she has appreciated living in a small town.

“I love the community and the small town feel,” Helen said. “I often joke that I can’t go to Target without seeing someone I know. I love that I can probably find a connection between any of my friends, no matter how separate they may seem. Waco is just large enough to feel interesting, but just small enough to feel like home.”

When she’s not hanging out at the Farmers Market, you might find Helen in one of Waco’s public library branches.

“They’ve probably helped me save thousands of dollars in books,” she said.

And if it’s an event that has do with the arts, Helen’s all in.

“I remember growing up helping out with one of the mural projects in downtown Waco,” she said.

“I’ve always loved theatre too, and can remember my mom taking me to countless productions at the Waco Civic Theatre and Waco High School Theatre. The arts are so important to any community, and keeping them alive is something everyone can do.”

Helen said she is excited to show everyone at the Festival, especially the out-of-towners, what Waco is all about.

“I hope to meet and make friends with as many people as possible during the Festival weekend,” Helen said. “I want to help Waco be a place where anyone feels welcome.”

Helen’s mom has every confidence in her ability to serve.

“This is a great role for Helen because she is a natural hostess, always trying to make others feel comfortable and at ease,” Felicia said.

Helen’s gown is inspired by a recent trip to India by costume designer Shanna Mattson. The gold and white embroidered floral silk was made in India and is the centerpiece of the gown. Crystal stones beautifully adorn the embroidered silk and were adhered to the gown by hand, while bands of woven gold trim, enhanced with a line of elegant light gold rhinestones, outline the feminine oval neckline and slightly puffed sleeves. Around the lower half of the queen’s skirt is a wide band of heavily beaded overlay on silk mesh, layered on top of off-white pure silk. Below the band is a dazzling metallic gold and silver jacquard that is exquisitely embellished with heavily textured and beaded gold flowers, each accentuated with large clear crystal stones. All elements of the gown drape elegantly around to the back of the dress and the 36-inch train. The gown was fabricated by Clara Chumney in San Antonio, dressmaker for FOTB, Fiesta and Rose Festival for decades.

In her sparkling gown and the traditional festival regalia, Helen said she’s ready for the weekend to begin.

“I hope that people from out of town get a chance to experience Waco in ways they might not have expected had they never visited,” Helen said. “More than anything, I hope that everyone involved can make memories and have a great time.”