On Friday night, after being handed a key to the city by the mayor and feted before a large crowd gathered in front of , Miss USA, Olivia Culpo, finally laid her head on her own pillow. At home, in Cranston, more than one month after being crowned in Las Vegas.
"She was whisked right away after winning the competition," said her dad, Peter Culpo, moments after the city-sponsored ceremony on behalf of his daughter.
"She was in New York, now she's been home for four or five days and she has been in a hotel," Peter Culpo said. "Now, she finally gets to sleep in her bed."
"Our pride is just immeasurable," Culpo said of his daughter, whom he watched on national television beating out 50 other women for the title of Miss USA. But she's still his little girl. "Nothing can plan you for something like this. It just happens. You understand it academically I suppose, but emotionally, it takes a long time. I'm still processing it."
Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung told Culpo that the city was proud of her. After four years serving as mayor, he's had a lot of highs and lows.
"But this is definitely one of the coolest moments, one of the biggest highs," Fung said. "I know all of the city of Cranston is proud today for the accomplishments Olivia has done for all Cranstonians and for all Rhode Islanders representing us."
The ceremony drew a large crowd of spectators who sat in the scorching July heat on a blocked-off, sun-baked Park Avenue. They watched Culpo receive a key to the city that was forged locally from reclaimed pewter. An award reserved for people deserving of the highest honors, it represents a faith and a trust in the recipient, Fung said.
"As you can see by everyone here, we're all porud and honored," Fung said. "I hope that you will always remember Cranston and hold it true to your heart, wherever you will be."
Culpo took to the stage wearing a turquoise and blue dress, her feet in sky-high heels. She told everyone that first and foremost, she's a Cranston girl.
"It means so much to come back here to see such a warm-hearted welcome from everyone," Culpo said. "I know if I were in any other town or state, it wouldn't be the same."
In fact, officials from the Miss Universe organization told her that they've never seen a homecoming quite like this one.
"I consider myself from my home town and home state before Miss USA," Culpo said. "No matter what happens in Miss Universe, I will always be your Cranston hometown girl and I will always love you."
Along with a key to the city, Culpo was given a Congressional citation by U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a special recognition from the City Council and one from Governor Lincoln Chafee on behalf of the state.
Culpo joined her mom, dad, Fung and City Council President Anthony Lupino in a tree-planting ceremony before she was escorted under a tent where she signed autographs and T-shirts for more than an hour.
For many, the highlight of the night was to listen to music from students in the BASICS music program and the and l bands, who joined together for a one-of-a-kind performance.
Fung said that it was a special collaboration, the second of its kind. The first time the two bands played together was in Florida.
He thanked all the parents and volunteers involved in the music programs for "instilling music and important values in children."
Culpo, a cellist, also sets a good example, Lupino said.
"She is someone we can be proud of," Lupino said. "[Johnston] has [Pauly D.] Cranston has Olivia Culpo."