LORAIN — You could say Taylor Cawthon's had a busy year.
But that would be a huge understatement.
The recent Lorain High graduate spent her weekends traveling the state attending festivals with her court as Lorain International Festival queen — the official ambassador for both the festival and the city itself.
She also kept up on her school work, graduating as the school's salutatorian. Oh, and she was senior class vice president as well. By the way, she was also putting in long hours in her job at American Eagle.
She wouldn't have it any other way.
"I couldn't get into trouble even if I wanted to," she said. "I keep busy."
Cawthon says her experience with Lorain International Festival has been invaluable.
"Being a princess really warms you up to meeting new people, really putting yourself out there," she said. "It gives you really great opportunities to just make good experiences and make new memories with a lot of people that you never thought you'd encounter."
Cawthon says she dropped to the floor a year ago when she was crowned queen.
"I just started crying with happiness and looking out into the crowd and just seeing everybody stand up cheering for me — it's a feeling that words can't even explain," she said.
And that gave Cawthon an even louder voice for something she's always been passionate about — the city of Lorain.
"Traveling around Ohio really makes you appreciate home," she said. "I think we take the city of Lorain for granted. We have such a beautiful city with such a great lakefront, and traveling all over really helps you to appreciate that.
"Everywhere I've gone, every festival, everybody's like 'I love Lorain International, and I love coming to the festival,' and I think that visiting other places really just does make you realize that we have such a strong community."
Cawthon said a festival celebrating zucchini in Obetz, Ohio, was the oddest one she visited.
"I've never heard of it. I did not know we would have a festival for zucchini, but that's actually one of the more fun ones," she said.
She called the Geneva Grape Festival her favorite and also particularly enjoyed the Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival.
Despite the chaos of the year, Cawthon can barely talk about it ending. She'll crown her successor at Thursday night's pageant.
"It's sad because it's over, but I know it has to happen," she said. "I guess my biggest thing is I hope that the girl that I crown queen can really just appreciate it and get as much out of this experience as I had.
"I've learned so much, and I think it's the most rewarding, best experience that's ever happened to me because you realize that you're a part of something that's so much bigger than what you are. So my hopes for the new queen is that she really just soaks in every moment because it is gone in the blink of an eye."
Cawthon has enrolled in Lorain County Community College's University Partnership program, where she plans to get a business administration degree through Kent State University.
But first she has a busy festival week ahead of her.
"I said it when you interviewed me the night of the pageant — let's have fun this week and eat a lot of good food," she said.
Contact Rona Proudfoot at 329-7124 or firstname.lastname@example.org.