FORT BENTON — The streets of Fort Benton were packed with art and entertainment on Saturday night as The Chouteau County Fine Arts Council sponsored an Art Walk, supporting students within the fine arts.
Artists from around Montana showcased their artwork along the streets and businesses of Fort Benton.
While the artwork was the main attraction, many came to see Miss Montana 2023 make her appearance.
23-year-old Faith Johnson has been an advocate for the arts, informing educators and state leaders of its importance so that more funding can be allocated to those programs in Montana schools.
During the event, she got the chance to engage with community members. One of the highlights was working with the kids.
"It just fills me with so much gratitude," Johnson said. "I enjoyed knowing that I'm bringing something into these kids' lives, even if it just means coloring coloring pages with them and just chatting with them about their day, because most of the time when talking with kids, I'm not talking about my pageant experience. I'm talking about how the kids are, what they're doing through the day, and how they like art. I haven't been back to Fort Benton in a while, and it's been so great to be back here. I had so much fun with the kids. I love doing anything with kids."
Her community service initiative is called "W.I.L.D. Life; Wilderness Inheritance, Land Diversity."
W - Wilderness: Emphasizing the preservation of natural spaces for future generations to experience and enjoy.
I - Inheritance: Highlighting the responsibility to pass down well-managed and diverse lands to our descendants. L - Land: Focusing on effective land management practices that balance conservation, hunting, and public access.
D - Diversity: Promoting the importance of maintaining diverse ecosystems and habitats through responsible stewardship.
Faith is currently enrolled at Montana State University in Bozeman as a Psychology major. She hopes to move on to study at the University of Montana to pursue law school.
In 2016, she earned the title of "Miss Montana's Teen." Faith won the title of Miss Montana on June 17 in Billings.
Faith noted through her years, she's earned over $10,000 in scholarships for college, not including the national full rides.
She has also been in theatre since the age of four. She said she has seen firsthand how theatre impacts the lives of those who engage in it. She added that it's been a goal of hers since the age of 16, to spread the message of how impactful theatre is on empathy, compassion, and mental health.
"I have always loved to perform," she said. "I'm an extrovert, I love being in front of people, and that's another reason I do pageants because it's a stage, it's a way to perform, and it's a way to show yourself to other people."
Successful both in and outside of pageantry, her next goal is the national stage - Miss America 2024, which would crown the first ever Miss America from Montana.
"It's hard not to compare yourself to the other girls," she said. "It's natural thing to look at people and say, 'I'm not this, and I'm not that,' but at the same time, I'm so many things that they're not. While I can be nervous about all of the things that I can't do, there are so many things that I can control. I know I'm good on stage, and that I'm a good role model and a good person. I think I would be an amazing Miss America. I'm nervous, but I'm also really excited for this amazing opportunity because it's literally a once in a lifetime opportunity."