Faith Fabian has been chasing a crown through her dreams her whole life.
She imagined how it would fit on her head and what color dress she might wear to the pageant.
“I knew I wanted the crown ever since I can remember,” she said. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be Cherry Blossom queen.”
She waited for the moment when years of preparation met her window of opportunity.
Even though she had rehearsed it in her head a million times and had practically been writing the script since she learned how to hold a No. 2 pencil, the moment still seemed surreal when they called her name the night of the pageant.
Faith was selected queen of the 2018 festival, which begins in 12 days. She was crowned on Feb. 17, four days after her parents’ 20th wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day.
No other royalty can match her pink portfolio. Faith, a junior at Mount de Sales Academy, has attended every pageant and rehearsal since she was a toddler.
It has been a lifelong apprenticeship. She has handed out programs in the lobby, kept festival founder Carolyn Crayton company in the auditorium and calmed the jittery nerves of contestants backstage. She has had almost every answer to nearly every question.
Her mom, Liz Fabian, has served as master of ceremonies for the festival pageant since 2002. This year, she recused herself from the emcee duties after her daughter became eligible for the pageant, which is open to high school junior and senior girls.
Liz worked in local TV news at WMGT, WGXA and WMAZ before joining The Telegraph as a reporter in April 2003. She was hired by The Weather Channel in its infancy and became one of the network’s first “storm chasers” during hurricane season.
Her history with the festival dates to 1983, when she was a first-year news reporter for Channel 41. She was assigned to cover “Today” show weatherman Willard Scott’s appearance in Macon. (There were no blossoms on the cherry trees. It started snowing and her car slid off the road in Jones County. Other than that, it was a pretty smooth day.)
Liz likes to claim the birth of her millennial baby was perfect timing for someone who worked in television. She went into labor on the last day of the November ratings sweeps, and she returned to work after her maternity leave on the first day of the sweeps period in February.
Faith was all over the evening news the night she was born. WGXA sent a camera crew to the hospital while Liz was in labor, then returned a few hours later when Faith arrived in the world at 7:25 p.m. During the holidays, at the beginning of every newscast, there was a short clip of Liz holding baby Faith in her arms.
Faith’s middle name is Elizabeth — after her mother and other family members. The name Faith has a story behind it. Matt and Liz had attended a lecture by a British scholar at a local church. The man pointed out the biblical significance of “h” as the fifth letter in a name. Levi became Matthew. Abram became Abraham. And Sarai became Sarah.
“Matt and I were driving down I-16 one night, and I said, ‘What about Faith?’ ” Liz said.
They sure had to have deep faith. Liz was 37 years old when she married. She suffered two miscarriages and was 40 when Faith was born.
As a child, Faith looked up to 2002 queen Sabrina Sikora. Literally.
Sabrina, who went on to a successful modeling career, was 6-foot-2. Faith was usually a head taller than everyone in her class at St. Joseph’s Elementary School. (She is now 5-foot-9.)
Her first pageant was the Little Mr. and Miss Cherry Blossom when she was 5 years old. The judges wanted to know about her pets, favorite color and favorite food.
“They asked me what I wanted to be, and I said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Faith said. “Everybody thought that was funny, so I started answering my questions, ‘I don’t know.’ ”
She didn’t win. It was the only other pageant she has participated in until two weeks ago. She did, however, start preparing for the moment back in the second grade. She told her friends one day she would be queen, and she promised one of them she could be first runner-up.
She got to put on the crown when she was 12 years old. Hannah Moore, the 2013 queen, practiced pinning the crown on Faith’s head before she went out and placed it on her successor the following year. (Hannah is Faith’s royalty coordinator for this year’s festival and is in charge of getting her to all the events.)
Faith already has been to several pre-festival events, including last week’s Cantrell Fun Run in Warner Robins. Former Miss America Betty Cantrell was there, but Faith was the one wearing a crown.
If there were any premonitions about being crowned queen, they began to show up in the weeks leading up to the pageant. The first was when she was asked about her background with the festival in her advance interview with the judges. She spoke with confidence about her experience. “And I didn’t answer any of the questions ‘I don’t know,’ ” she said, laughing.
At a pageant rehearsal Feb. 8, her photograph was taken next to a fireplace at Wesleyan. There was a sconce on the wall.
“The light almost looked like there was a crown over Faith’s head,” Liz said.
The night before the pageant, with her head on the pillow and her eyes closed, she dreamed she won.
When the pageant was over late Saturday, the Fabians still had not eaten dinner. They ended up at Applebee’s. Faith proudly wore her crown inside the restaurant.
“Is it your birthday?” someone asked.
“No,” she said. “I was crowned queen of the Cherry Blossom Festival.”
This time she wasn’t dreaming.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism and creative writing at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.