This year marks the 71st annual Cherry Blossom Festival in the nation’s capital, and along with it, the annual Cherry Blossom Princess Program, in which women from all over the country are selected to represent their state. This year, the Michigan representative is none other than Grand Valley State University student Elizabeth Kebler.
Kebler, a senior at GVSU studying advertising and public relations, got involved with the Cherry Blossom Festival through the National Conference of State Societies (NCSS) and the Michigan State Society. She then went through an application process before being crowned Michigan’s Cherry Blossom Princess.
The festival and princess program celebrates friendly relations between the United States and Japan. As explained by Vice President of Events and Festival Chair with NCSS, Teresa Downs, both were revived in 1948 as part of post-WWII efforts to promote peaceful relations with Japan.
Communications Vice President of the princess program Diana Tappert said, “The princesses share a week in D.C. together, sharing culture about their home states and learning more about the culture of Japan.”
As the program is all about international friendship, princesses from countries outside of the U.S. are included as well.
In order to become a Cherry Blossom Princess, candidates must be 19 to 24 years old, have graduated high school, and have a connection to the state that they represent. Additionally, a potential princess must demonstrate strong leadership skills in her school, workplace and community.
Tappert said that candidates must also possess “poise, intelligence, maturity, have a good personality and character, and enjoy good physical, mental and emotional stability in order to withstand the rigorous schedule of festival activities.”
Representing Michigan is an honor for Kebler, as she is very passionate about the state and all of the opportunities it has provided her.
“Working alongside Congressman Bill Huizenga and his staff for the past year has brought my attention to how great our state truly is, and I am excited to be able to bring attention to that in D.C.,” Kebler said.
Kebler was inspired to partake in this opportunity because she feels it is the perfect way to end her time as an undergraduate student.
“I knew this would give me the chance to not only represent our state, but also allow me to participate in a variety of cultural and social events celebrating the unique and enduring friendship between the United States and Japan,” Kebler said.
As a 2019 Cherry Blossom Princess, Kebler will discuss policy issues and cultural insights with the nation’s leaders.
“During my time, I will be visiting the U.S. Institute of Peace, meeting with the ambassador of Japan and attending receptions at the Russian Embassy, as well as attending many other events,” Kebler said.
While she is excited about the program in its entirety, Kebler is most looking forward to being escorted by Huizenga at the Congressional Reception on Capitol Hill.
“Engaging with leading government, business, arts and media leaders for a week is an incredible experience and doing that alongside other powerful young women who are passionate about civic and world affairs will be an enriching experience,” Kebler said.
At the end of the week, a princess will be selected at random and crowned Cherry Blossom Queen. The Queen will represent NCSS on a two-week-long diplomatic trip to Japan in which she will meet with the Prime Minister of Japan, business leaders and members of cultural societies around Japan, spreading the history of the National Conference of State Societies and its role within the Cherry Blossom Princess Program.