One of Washington’s quaintest traditions celebrated its 65th anniversary this weekend with the crowning of a new Cherry Blossom Queen to reign over the annual Cherry Blossom Parade and festival. There’s no vulgar swimsuit competition at the pageant organized by the National Conference of State Societies — in fact, there’s no real competition at all: The queen is chosen from among the societies’ state princesses via a random spin of a wheel by the Japanese ambassador.
This year’s winner: Mary Anne Morgan, the Oklahoma State Society’s princess and a staffer for Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). She will represent the U.S. on a goodwill tour of Japan later this year — a trip that was a most interesting experience for last year’s queen, Taylor Barfield. The Bowie, Md., college student was the first black woman to serve as U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen, and her appearance caused a sensation in Japan, where many assumed that all American gals are white and blonde. (When the governor of Tokyo kissed her in the cheek, it was a huge news story.)
“People saw me and were not afraid to stare and ask for a picture,” Barfield told our colleague Emily Wax last week. “It felt like I was more a curiosity, and not like it was mean-hearted or anything.” Read more: D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Queen ritual blossoms into a cultural education, 4/12/13