Three students slipped into ball gowns and lived like queens last week.
Instead of running through the typical student schedule of classes and work, seniors Amy Brickman, Pierron Tackes and Lauren Kalina attended events like meet-and-greet ceremonies at the Department of State and gathered at a tea party as winners of the weeklong Cherry Blossom Princess Educational and Cultural Exchange Program.
Brickman, Tackes and Kalina represented their home states of Pennsylvania, Nevada and Missouri, respectively, as three of 54 Cherry Blossom Princesses in the 64th annual event sponsored by the National Conference of State Societies.
“I knew this would be a great experience and make a really great story one day,” Brickman said. “The potential to win a trip to Japan was also helpful.”
The contest’s rules require that princess hopefuls have a high school diploma and range from 19 to 24 years of age.
With a jam-packed schedule for the week, the princesses began each day at 7 a.m., their schedules not ending until the early morning hours. Tuesday, they began their day touring National Postal Museum, after which they visited children at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center and stayed for lunch, visited the National Museum of American History and went to Bread for the City. They then talked with the Women’s Bar Association, Bright Beginnings and Mary House in Northeast D.C. before they finally went back to their hotel to freshen up and attend a Taste of the States Princess Coronation Reception at Ft. Myer.
“I was excited about the whole program and what we would be able to do, and thought that in my last semester it was something I could really afford to do,” Tackes said, referring to her lax class attendance last week.
Despite their rigorous schedule, some events allowed the girls to blow off steam. Earlier, the princesses were invited to eat and play with children at the Kennedy Institute and the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, something they said was a fun break from the more regimented structure of their busy routine.
“I was the crazy girl who was rolling around in the grass and not acting like a princess,” Tackes said, adding the children had the funniest stories to share with the princesses.
They also received backstage tours of the Kennedy Center and sampled traditional cuisine at the Thai embassy.
Brickman said the Kennedy Center tour was her personal favorite event.
“The tour was really cool, because we got to stand on the main stage, which was really exciting. We got to see the tech area, underground, three different stages and go in the president’s box,” Brickman said.
As a senior, Tackes felt this was her last chance to participate in an event like this – something she could cross off her bucket list.
“As a senior getting ready to go out into that scary place that is the real world, it was so encouraging to hear that we should pursue what makes us happy, despite the roadblocks,” Tackes said, reflecting on words of advice from people she met throughout the week.
The U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen, from Maryland this year, won a two-week trip to Japan, and past winners have visited the Diet of Japan, the country’s legislature.