The Florida Strawberry Festival Queen and Court were crowned at the 89th Annual Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Scholarship Pageant on Sat., Jan. 20 at the Charlie Grimes Family Agricultural Center. The annual event, presented by Plant City Lions Club, featured 17 contestants displaying poise, grace and determination as they vied for a title and the opportunity to represent the Florida Strawberry Festival and Plant City community at more than 80 guest appearances throughout the coming year.
At the end of the night, Annistyn Faith Griffin, a junior at Durant High School who is also dual-enrolled at Hillsborough Community College, was crowned the 2024 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen. She is joined by First Maid Taylor Marie Gregory and court members SaraGrace Elizabeth Sparkman, Abigail Louise Spivey and Zion Nevaeh Keese.
Griffin will receive a $1,200 scholarship from the Plant City Lions Club and $1,400 scholarship from the Florida Strawberry Festival. Gregory will receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Plant City Lions Club and $1,200 scholarship from the Florida Strawberry Festival. Each court member will receive an $800 scholarship from the Plant City Lions Club and $1,000 scholarship from the Florida Strawberry Festival.
During the evening, contestants persevered through a personal interview (conducted earlier in the day, worth 25% of their total score), casual wear (worth 30% of their total score), public speaking (worth 15% of their total score) and an evening gown competition (worth 30% of their total score). After the judges’ scores were tabulated by an independent auditor, the 17 contestants were whittled down 10 semifinalists, which included: Hope Alyse Storter, Milee Gale Hastings, Asia Angelique Hodge, Gracie Ashlyn Carter and Addison Love Griffin. Garner earned the title Miss Congeniality and received a $400 scholarship from the Plant City Lions Club.
After the top 10 finalists were announced, those contestants were sent to a sound-proof room where they awaited their turn on stage to answer an impromptu question: “The Strawberry Queen is known to be well rounded as she represents an entire community. Share one of your extra-curricular activities or involvements and how it has shaped you into the person you are today.”
The panel of independent, Miss America-certified judges scored each contestant based on impromptu public speaking (25%), overall look (40%) and stage presence (35%).
Following the impromptu question, the 2023 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen Kennedie Clinton and her court shared a farewell message to the audience. Clinton said her favorite moment during her time as queen was the Night to Shine event and the Baby Parade. “I loved the Night to Shine event but the day of the baby parade a mom came up to me and told me her daughter had dressed up as me with a black and white dress with rhinestones,” she said. “The mother sent me pictures of her smiling and standing next to my dress. She was super excited when she got to meet me. It’s one of those moments where I got to see how I’m impacting my community of youth and inspiring the next generation of strawberry queens. It was heartfelt.”
She also offered advice to the new queen and court. “Just have fun because it goes by so fast,” she remarked. “Trust me, I thought it was a cliche but it really does go by so fast so enjoy every moment.”
Plant City Lions Club Pageant Committee Chairman Gail Lyons was impressed by all the contestants’ willingness to serve their community, the motto of the Lion’s Club. “This pageant is about the contestants, teamwork, empowerment and love,” she said. “I hope each one of these ladies goes away feeling encouraged and take something they have learned to help them find their own path and achieve their own dreams.”
Florida Strawberry Festival President Kyle Robinson said the new Queen and her Court, as well as all the contestants, did extremely well. “Any of them could have been in the top 10 or the top five but the judges worked hard to pick five amazing young ladies whose abilities they showcased during the pageant will serve them well in their year on the court,” he said. “They not only represent the Strawberry Festival but the entire city of Plant City.”
In addition to making appearances at an upcoming city commission meeting, Robinson said they’re also planning a trip for them to visit the state capital and meet with their state representatives and maybe even the governor. “I’m confident this group of girls will represent us well just like the previous queen and courts have done in years’ past,” he said.