Utah's Cherry Blossom Festival Princess, Melissa A. McQueen, of Salt Lake City, is one of a handful of state princesses in Washington's spring celebration who actually comes from the state she represents.
While Melissa is a student at the University of Utah, and her parents, Dr. Craig and Anne McQueen live in Salt Lake City, many of the other girls in the pageant have lived most of their lives in the nation's capital. Their ties to a home state are as distant as a father who has been in Congress since they were born or a mother who came here to work on Capitol Hill a score of years ago.For Melissa, Washington is a new sight. She was selected by the Utah State Society, one of 54 loosely-organized groups that somehow represent each state - plus Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia - in Washington for social purposes.
Utah's organization meets sporadically and has for years been under the direction of Gregoria Korologos, office manager for Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah. "I knew Greg," Melissa said when asked how she was chosen. Her week began on Sunday with a ceremony to light the stone Japanese Cherry Blossom Lantern, given to Washington by the Mayor of Tokyo in 1902 along with the 3,000 Japanese cherry trees that now line the shore of the Potomac.
Melissa has participated in a fashion show and a parade through downtown Washington, laid a pink rose at the Vietnam War Memorial, and was escorted to a midday luncheon by a former player with the Washington Redskins. It was so exciting she did not recall her companion's name.
Other events on tap for her include a tour of the White House, a visit to the Japanese Embassy and a formal ball on Friday evening, when the Cherry Blossom Queen will be chosen. The winner will get a two-week tour of Japan.
The end of the festival is the parade, on Saturday, over which the new queen will reign.