One Arlington high school graduate has pulled off what might be the ultimate COVID pivot: putting her college plans on hold to adopt a royal alter ego.
Eva Gary was always active as a performer in school and community theatre; after graduating in 2020, she planned to attend Shenandoah University last fall to pursue a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Musical Theater and eventually have a career as a professional actor. But she decided to take a gap year when the pandemic temporarily thwarted her happily-ever-after.
Like many of us navigating those first few months of lockdown, Gary attended virtual events, including drive-by birthday parties. In high school, she had worked part-time for a party princess company that shuttered during her senior year, but her stint helped inspire ways she could enhance kids’ special occasions. “Starting a company of my own was initially my mom’s idea,” Gary recalls. “She kept suggesting that I give it a try, but being busy and inexperienced in business management, I didn’t think I could do it.” But after purchasing three costumes and doing a few trial runs for friends and family, she quickly fell back in love with princessing, launching Princess Wish Parties as a safe way to bring life and joy to children and adults during a very trying time.
The first PWP was for a 4-year-old’s drive-by birthday party, during which Gary and two other princesses strolled onto his front yard, sang and danced—all while remaining socially distant. “It was so gratifying to see the joy and happiness our visit brought not only to the little boy but the whole family,” Gary says. “The boy’s dad said, ‘This is great! I feel like I am at Disney!’ and that is exactly what I wanted to do: provide a little escape for people during these tough times.” Since then, she and her team have done everything from organize a back-to-school visit for a neighbor with an appearance from Cinderella, to deliver a video message as the Snow Queen to a seriously injured child in a hospital in another state. “The most rewarding part will always be seeing how excited the kids get when they meet their favorite characters.” For the record, Gary, who loved playing mermaids with her sisters and friends when she was growing up, cites the Mermaid Princess as her favorite character.
In-person PWP events in the DMV start at $90 for a 30-minute visit with one character, which includes a coronation ceremony, sing-alongs, story time, charades, and “freeze dance.” As party lengths increase, activities like crafts or bracelet-making can be added. Virtual video messages start at $15, while Zoom calls start at $40. She will also soon offer a Princess Playdate, a one-on-one experience with a character centered around a singular activity, like playing dress-up or doing arts and crafts.
Gary plans to continue PWP post-pandemic and grow the company after graduation while pursuing her professional acting career. “It makes me so happy to know that Princess Wish Parties will be an important memory for so many families, the kind of thing they will look back at photos and videos from in years to come.”
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