Florida Strawberry Festival Crowns New Queen With Royal Heritage

By Lauren Der

A new Florida Strawberry Festival Queen was recently crowned at the Grimes Family Agricultural Center in Plant City.

Strawberry Festival Queen_Jessi Rae Varnum Being Crowned 2014 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen by 2013 Queen Kelsey FryJessi Rae Varnum, an 18-year-old senior at Durant High School, was crowned 2014 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen, along with first maid Lindsey English and court members Macaley Barrow, Kallee Cook and Caitlyn Kent.

“I can’t even believe this,” said Varnum. “I have looked up to strawberry queens my whole life and this is a dream come true.”

Varnum’s mother, Kay Newsome Varnum, served as queen in 1985 and they are now the second mother-daughter pair to have served as queen.

“I’m fighting back tears and I’m overwhelmed,” said Kay Varnum. “God has blessed us so much with Jessi Rae who is such a sweet, genuine person.”

The Florida Strawberry Festival Queen’s Competition is organized by the Plant City Lion’s Club and is composed of five facets of competition: a personal interview, on-stage speaking, casual wear, evening wear and an impromptu question for the top 10 finalists.

Throughout the year, the queen and court make over 80 appearances as they represent the Florida Strawberry Festival and the Plant City community. They can be seen at all major events of the Festival, on stage before each of the 22 headline entertainment shows and at community events.

“A great group of young ladies was chosen tonight,” said General Manager Paul Davis. “We’re looking forward to them being a part of our Festival.”

The Strawberry Festival takes place from Thursday, February 27 through Sunday, March 9 in Plant City.