By Amber Jurgensen | Associate Editor
Fresh off her win as Miss February in the Calendar Girls pageant at Plant City High School, Maddy Keene is excited to continue her career as a pageant girl in Plant City’s most famous competition, the Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Pageant.
Like many other contenders, this is Keene’s first time competing in the 83-year-old Pageant.
“I love picking out a pretty dress, doing my hair and make up and walking on the stage,” Keene said about her favorite parts of the Calendar Girls pageant.
Growing up in Plant City, Keene remembers seeing beautiful Strawberry Queens and their graceful court at events around town.
“It’s really exciting to think that I could be one of the court members or the Queen,” Keene said.
And although Keene has hopes of winning the competition, she is doing the Pageant mostly for fun and to be part of the long-standing tradition.
To compete in the Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Pageant, which is sponsored by the Plant City Lions Club, competitors like Keene must attend a mandatory orientation Nov. 4.
At the orientation, hopefuls will receive an application and learn if they meet the criteria to enter the Pageant. They must have a 3.0 grade-point average and live within certain geographical boundaries in Plant City.
Pageant chairwoman Gail Lyons is hoping to select around 35 girls and two alternates.
“Every girl in this community looks forward to becoming the Strawberry Queen,” Lyons said. “They start them out in pageants young in this community.”
The Lions Club starts planning for the pageant in July, polishing the application and preparing for the mandatory meeting. After the girls complete their applications, all information is verified, and the selected girls meet at a social in December. There, they are matched randomly with a sponsor.
Rehearsals for the opening dance begin in early January. The girls have less than a month to learn the routine.
“They have fun with it,” Lyons said. “We keep it simple.”
The pageant is on Jan. 26, at the Evelyn and Batista Madonia Agricultural Center. Interviews start at 10 a.m. and usually end at around 4 p.m. The girls return for the finale later in the evening.
Judges’ identities aren’t revealed until the day of the show, but all are Miss America judges from out of town.
“I wish I could crown all of the girls Queen,” Lyons said of the contestants.
Contact Amber Jurgensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHEN: 4 p.m. Nov. 4
WHERE: Florida Strawberry Festival Expo Hall
INFORMATION: Applicants must be accompanied to the orientation by a parent or guardian
CONTACT: Kerrie Gafford, (863) 670-6272