Naturally, it was a big honor to appear at the Kravis Center and be recognized in the annual ceremony for high school excellence. But, 15 years later, she still cringes when remembering her outfit.
“I was wearing an unfortunate blue suit and plain skirt,” Krakow recalled in a phone call from Los Angeles. “It was not my finest fashion moment. I was rocking my frizzy, curly hair. But I owned it.”
When the annual Pathfinders are presented again at the Kravis Center on Wednesday night, it’s not far-fetched to imagine that some winner might think, “Hey, Erin Krakow won this award, too!”
In 2002, Krakow, a Wellington senior attending the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, strode across the stage to accept her first-place Pathfinder for drama. Today, she strides across TV sets as the star of the Hallmark Channel series “When Calls The Heart,” about to enter its fifth season.
On the show, Krakow plays Elizabeth Thatcher, a big-city woman adapting to the rural, turn-of-the-century Canadian west after taking a teaching job in a tiny coal-mining town. She finds romance with a Mountie (because, after all, this is the Hallmark Channel) and goes on a journey to find her place in a world where traditions are slowly evolving.
Growing up in Wellington, Krakow didn’t play sports and get all the achievement trophies that other kids collected. So winning the Pathfinder was important for her.
“Absolutely,” she said. “To have this kind of recognition, it was really meaningful to me. It was validation that I was on the right path.”
Since graduating from Dreyfoos and attending the Julliard School in New York, Krakow, 32, has also co-starred on the Lifetime series “Army Wives” and appeared on the TV series “Castle,” “NCIS: Los Angeles,” and in the Hallmark movie, “Finding Father Christmas.” But she is best known for the family-friendly “When Calls The Heart,” which has a dedicated fan base known as “Hearties,” who are very active on social media.
Krakow said she will be returning to Vancouver in late summer to start filming the fifth season, and wanted to thank all the fans of the show in Palm Beach County, where her parents still live.
“I get a lot of messages through my family,” she said. “It means a lot to have that support.”
And she has some advice for the high school seniors who will be winning Pathfinders on Wednesday night.
“Enjoy the moment. It is a very special and epic event to be surrounded by so many peers and your families. Bask in the glow.”
She also said the Pathfinder recognition, as it did for her, can serve “as a kind of touchstone” to focus winners on their chosen goals.
Krakow said she returns “frequently” to Palm Beach County to see her family. In a previous interview, she said she usually tries to make time for a visit to Dreyfoos, where she appeared in theatrical productions. She praised the school and its drama and music teachers for preparing her “for life and the world, and what I do. I’m so lucky to have gone there.”
And she still has her Pathfinder trophy, by the way.
She knows exactly where it is whenever she wants to remember that night at the Kravis Center, where she may have worn a questionable outfit but was unquestionably on her way to stardom and success.
“My parents have very generously left my room as it was,” she said. “It’s sitting on the desk in my bedroom.”