We’ve all had our brushes with future famous folks.

You know what I’m talking about — that high school kid in all the drama productions who went on to become a Broadway actor, or the girl in the school or church choir who later became a professional singer.

And, of course, it seems everyone knows a star hometown athlete who subsequently did great things in college or the pros.

Well, last week, those of us who are cupcake fans enjoyed the success story of a local baker who hit it big on the Food Network show “Cake Wars.”

For those who haven’t heard, Lilian Halabi, owner of Lily’s Cakes in Harker Heights, competed against three other bakers in creating a huge, fanciful, cake with a Monopoly theme to celebrate the birthday of the iconic board game.

Halabi’s cake was judged as the winner, earning her $10,000 and nationwide fame — not to mention a surge of congratulations and good wishes from the local community. No doubt many Central Texans have been by the store to see the winning cake in person or glimpsed it on the bakery’s web page.

Not bad for a woman who started decorating cakes after taking a class at Hobby Lobby — though she had been baking for years.

Lilian was just the latest local resident to experience fame in the reality-TV genre.

Last year, Luvina Sabree, owner of So Natural Organic Restaurant in Harker Heights, was featured on the show “Restaurant Impossible” — along with her family — when the program’s executives picked her establishment for a design makeover and filmed the process for a show that aired last April.

Later in the year, Richard Rawlings, owner of Gas Monkey Garage in Dallas and star of the Discovery Channel’s “Fast N’ Loud” show, opened a restaurant in Harker Heights.

Rawlings paid a visit to the restaurant, Richard Rawlings’ Garage, in September and visited with fans.

The area has had its share of future music and TV stars, as well.

Before she hit it big in Hollywood on such shows as “Party of Five” and “Ghost Whisperer,” actress Jennifer Love Hewitt attended middle school in Harker Heights and elementary school in Nolanville. Our Copperas Cove Herald editor, Jacqueline Dowland, remembers going to elementary school with “Love” as she was called then, but they weren’t in the same grade.

Musician and producer Michael Stipe, of the band R.E.M,, didn’t graduate from Copperas Cove High School, but he was a Bulldawg in the late 1970s and sang in the school’s choir.

Two Cove High athletes made their mark in professional football — Charles Tillman, who was a Pro Bowl defensive standout with the Chicago Bears, and Robert Griffin III, who won the Heisman Trophy and was a top-five NFL draft pick, playing for Washington and now Cleveland.

I had my own brush with future greatness when I was in high school in Central Illinois. I remember sitting in the stands with a classmate, Rob Blair, watching a varsity basketball game. His little sister, who was 7 or 8 at the time, came running up to tell him about her skating competition. She had won — yet again, to no one’s surprise. This little dynamo had been skating since she was 4 years old.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when Rob’s little sister, Bonnie Blair, went on to win five gold medals in speedskating in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

So, hats off to Lilian, Luvina, Jennifer, Michael, Charles and Robert, among others. Hundreds of Central Texans can say “we knew you when.”

And the way things are going, it won’t be long before the spotlight of fame shines on another one of our neighbors.

Dave Miller is deputy managing editor /opinion for the Killeen Daily Herald and editor of the Harker Heights Herald. Contact him at dmiller@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7543.

dmiller@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7543

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