Hungarian princess Taylor Cawthon decided to become a Lorain International Festival princess to meet new people.
And it worked.
"I met my best friend doing this," she said.
She also got a pretty big honor out of the experience. Thursday night she was crowned the 2012 Lorain International Festival queen.
Cawthon said she was stunned.
"I blanked out," she said. "I was honestly still so in shock of everything that was going on. I just knew I heard my name, and I had to move."
That best friend, Croatian princess Alexis Berstling, was awarded the title of first runner-up. African American princess Nadja Payton was second runner-up, and Mary Carandang, representing the spotlight Filipino community, was third runner-up. A total of 25 girls representing 13 nationalities competed in this year's pageant.
"I am speechless," Cawthon said of Berstling's honor. "I cried harder when she was placed than when I was crowned."
Cawthon, who will be a senior at Lorain High School in the fall is in the top 5 percent of her class and is involved in the student government, where she is already working to organize this fall's homecoming. Next year she plans to go to Ohio State University and major in Arabic, with the hopes of one day working for the government.
Cawthon said she's devoted a lot of time and energy to the International Festival.
"It's been crazy," she said. "I have worked so hard for this. I am blessed to actually have the opportunity to wear this crown and sash and represent the city of Lorain."
She's involved in her Hungarian culture through her church, the Hungarian Reformed Church in South Lorain, and dances with the church's ethnic dance troupes.
"My family — we're all Hungarian, we all love chicken paprikas and cabbage and noodles — so you can say there's Hungarian on both sides of the family, so it's everywhere," she said.
Cawthon is looking forward to reigning over the weekend's festival bazaar.
"It's going to be like floating on a cloud," she said. "I am beyond excited and beyond happy with the outcome."
After that, she will have an even bigger job, representing Lorain and the International Festival as an ambassador to festivals around Ohio. Her love for Lorain is clear.
"It wasn't this pageant that made me love the city," she said. "I have grown up in Lorain, I've always worked the festival, so now having the opportunity to actually represent the festival really means a lot."
Cawthon's message to Lorainites: "Just be proud of Lorain, and let's eat a bunch of good food this weekend."
Cawthon's parents are Steve and Jenny Cawthon and Andy and Jennifer Santoro.