Kenley Connell reigned as the Florida Strawberry Festival Queen in 2022.
Growing up in Plant City has taught me several things – friends become family, memories are so valuable, and supporting American agriculture is a vital key to our community. The Florida Strawberry Festival incorporates each of those aspects in such a beautiful way. Being crowned the 2022 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen has shown me the importance of those aspects of Plant City.
My first ‘thank you’ goes to the Plant City Lions Club. The court and I cannot thank you enough for your generosity in our scholarships and for putting on the most respected, organized and fair pageant. To Ms. Gail and Mr. George, we cannot thank you two enough for the love and kindness you both show. If it wasn’t for you, this pageant would not be as amazing.
To the Florida Strawberry Festival: Mr. Paul, Thank you for loving all 5 of us like your own, your kind heart, inspiring words, and hugs are my favorite. It is because of people like you that all 5 of us had a blast all year long. To Uncle Timmy, thank you for making all of us feel so protected and safe throughout the entire year, we know you have our backs for life. To the Directors and their spouses, thank you for treating us like family and supporting us throughout the entire year.
To the local strawberry farmers, you guys are the reason this is all possible. Thank you for always growing the best fruit and making this festival all possible, because it is truly a celebration of the harvest of the berry.
To our strawberry moms, there aren’t the right words to explain the amount of gratitude and love I have for you two. To Mrs. Lori, your gentle spirit, kind heart and patience are so admirable. Thank you for always convincing Mrs. Donna to let us wear what we want. You have taught us more about being polite, kind, and strong young women than anyone I know. To the true queen, Mrs. Donna, thank you for loving us five girls with all the love in your heart, you are the perfect example of how a true Christian woman should act. You have always been the biggest advocate for me and the girls, even if you are tough on us. I hope to be half the woman you both are one day.
To my girls, my four older sisters, my “blended” family, and the young women who I am so proud to call my friends. You four mean more to me than you will ever know, a year full of memories means a lifetime as friends.
My Madi Mae- my favorite red head, thank you for being the best right-hand man, and for always hyping me up before introducing an act. Your love for Jesus and people shines everywhere you go. Thank you for teaching me all the ins and outs of festival history and loving me like your baby sister. I will always be your Baby K.
Queen B- the most successful, hardworking, and intelligent young woman. I have never in my life met someone who can take a math test, have volleyball practice and an event, and still have on the perfect shade of red lipstick. If it wasn’t for you being the most supportive friend, this year wouldn’t have been possible.
My Chlo- the sunshine on a rainy day, the perfect example of a true friend and the girl who I can always call and ask for advice. I will never forget witnessing you burn a whole chunk of your hair off; you didn’t laugh then but oh boy can we laugh about it now. Thank you for teaching me the perfect way to pose, love and find the good in others.
Tamia- the dancing queen, the makeup perfector, and the funniest person I have ever encountered. You made every single moment a blast and I couldn’t thank you enough for teaching me how to do my eyebrows, properly style my outfits and love people beyond just good enough.
You four are my sisters for life, I mean it. I love you guys more.
To my family and friends, without you guys this year would never have been possible. To my old man, my dad, you remind me of the song “Bible and a .44”, there is nothing you love more than your family and American agriculture. My momma, thank you for supporting me every step of the way and showing me how to be a true woman of God. Ella, Colt, and Reid, you three are my reason why, the reason I push myself to do my best and my favorite people. I love you.
As my reign comes to an end, I look back with a smile on my face and a full heart of the happiest memories. Plant City, you are my favorite place to be. Thank you for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. The five of us could not thank you all enough for allowing us to serve as the 2022 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen and Court. It will forever hold a special place in our hearts.
With thanks and love,