ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The tradition of crowning a Tulip Queen goes back 74 years in Albany history. Each queen holds the crown for one trip around the sun. However, this year, one former queen received a surprising offer from the City of Albany to continue her reign by hosting the 2022 Royal Tulip Ball.
Katie O’Malley Maloney is the CEO of Katie O’ Weddings and Events and the owner of the historic Kenmore Ballroom. At 21-years-old, Maloney was an intern at WGY Radio while working tirelessly to put herself through college. She was crowned Albany Tulip Queen in 1998, grateful for the scholarship that came with the title.
“At the time, it was the 50th anniversary of the Tulip Festival,” Maloney said. “I can still envision and hear every moment. Don Weeks from WGY was the emcee. He opened the envelope and read my name, so it was very special.”
During her year as queen, Maloney collaborated with her Tulip Court on various community outreach programs. One fundraiser culminated in a donation of books to the Albany Public Library and the creation of the “Tulip Queen Reading Room.”
“It meant a lot to create something tangible like that in the end,” Maloney said. “It forced me in a lot of ways to learn what a leader was all about, as well as the sense of community.”
Twenty-four years later, Katie has more than proved her leadership skills. She is the Founder and CEO of a thriving event planning company and the owner of a historic venue—The Kenmore Ballroom.
Maloney signed the lease for the space in 2019 with plans to renovate the ballroom and open it up to eager customers. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the venue and its beautiful new chairs sat empty.
“Obviously, it’s been a slow time for events and celebrations,” Maloney said.
So, when an employee from the City of Albany asked Maloney to host the 2022 Royal Tulip Ball and Albany Tulip Queen Luncheon inside the Kenmore, she had to pinch herself.
“Until the actual ball happened, I didn’t realize how unique and special it was. I was sort on a high all day,” Maloney laughed.
Pink tulips adorned the space, and a band played music at the top of the grand staircase. Amongst the attendees were Mayor Kathy Sheehan, countless former Tulip Queens, and the new 2022 Tulip Court. Maloney’s husband and daughter also joined her for the remarkable full-circle moment.
Maloney said a high point during the festivities was speaking with the 2022 Tulip Court and the new Albany Tulip Queen, Sam Mills. She also gave advice to the long table of special guests.
“I said you guys have a wonderful year ahead of you and just shared my experience so many years ago, Maloney said. “Just enjoy it and appreciate it, and you get what you put in.”
Next year will make the 75th Anniversary of the Albany Tulip Queen, and Maloney hopes the Kenmore Ballroom will continue to be a part of the annual tradition for years to come.