Sophomore Tatiana Duran is not a pageant girl. But when she was given the opportunity to represent the state of New Mexico in this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival, she jumped at the chance.
“I’ve never done a pageant,” Duran said, adding that she was offered the position by the office of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, where she works. “But I was asked to represent my state and that’s important.”
The National Cherry Blossom Festival, celebrating the beginning of spring and commemorating the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo to the city, draws more than half a million visitors to Washington each year, according to the Festival’s Web site.
About 60 cherry blossom princesses are chosen each year, representing all 50 states and U.S. territories, as well as other nations such as Japan, Thailand and Denmark. The program is sponsored by the National Conference of State Societies and since 1948, the princesses have functioned as ambassadors to the proceedings and attend various functions throughout the week-long event.
Part of the week’s activities includes several visits to foreign embassies, which she called the “highlight” of holding the position, a traditional lantern lighting by the Japanese princess on the Tidal Basin and a Congressional reception. The princesses will also help distribute food to those in need at the Capital Area Food Bank, attend a Russian fashion show and luncheon and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
At the end of the week, a state cherry blossom queen is chosen by a random spin of a wheel at the Cherry Blossom Queen Grand Ball and Dinner, being held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The cherry blossom queen then rides on a special float during the Cherry Blossom Parade and travels to Japan to represent the U.S.
“Sure, why not?” she joked when asked if this helped attract her to the position. “If I win, I get a trip to Japan.”
When she informed her friends and family about the title she said that they were very excited.
“My parents said to do it because you never know what kinds of experiences you will have,” she said.
She added that her mother will be coming all the way from New Mexico later in the week to watch the parade and to attend some of the events.
Duran said part of the preparation includes etiquette lessons, something she joked she is willing to endure because of the responsibility of representing her state.
And her life will be quite hectic. She will sometimes be required to attend multiple functions on the same day, which requires complex clothing changes between each event, with no more than an hour in some cases. Since she won’t be staying at the hotel that the other princesses are, she will have to take her clothes with her for the events, which includes a formal gown, an evening dress and casual clothing. She joked that when she went to purchase her gown, some of her friends thought she was getting married.
Each princess exchanges gifts with the others and her gift to her peers was biscochitos, a traditional New Mexican cookie.
With all the duties she must perform and the events she has to attend, the international affairs major said she has had to miss a lot of class. But she said that her professors were very understanding and that she has been able to stay afloat thanks to friends taking notes on her behalf.