Carrying on a family tradition, Durant High School senior Chelsea Bowden, 17, was crowned last month as the 2012 Strawberry Festival Queen.

“For me, this is a dream come true,” said 17-year-old Durant High School senior and newly crowned 2012 Strawberry Festival Queen, Chelsea Bowden.

Her reign began in January, after competing against dozens of other young ladies that wished for the coveted title, and was something she has always wanted, Bowden said that wearing the crown is extra special for her.

“Both my grandmothers were Strawberry Queens, so it is truly an honor as well as a way for me to carry on a family tradition,” Bowden said, as she explained that her grandmother Barbara Bowden (née Alley) wore the crown in 1948 followed by Ruby Jean Redman (née Baker), who won the title in 1953.

Born and raised in Plant City, Chelsea is the daughter of Durant High School principal Pam Bowden and has a brother and a sister.

Setting an example for her schoolmates and peers, the reigning queen has been attending Durant High School for four years, currently holds a 4.2 GPA, was the captain of the varsity volleyball team, is a member of the Leo Club, is a member of student government and the National Honor Society.

Upon graduation, Chelsea plans to attend Hillsborough Community College followed by a four-year university majoring in pediatric nursing.

“I love children and I believe that this is a great goal for me to pursue” she said.

The new Strawberry Queen is also fond of strawberries and chocolate, a combination that she had a chance to indulge in first-hand following an invitation to dip strawberries in chocolate at The Original Leena’s Chocolates, located at in 1048 Bloomingdale Ave. in Plaza Bella in Valrico.

“I absolutely love strawberries and chocolate,” Chelsea said. “I don’t mind helping out at all.”

The event is also an annual tradition, offered by shop owners Anthony and Leena Caligiure. The giant strawberries with the long stems -intentionally left intact by the pickers to make dipping them in chocolate easier came from Brandon Farm on S.R. 60 in Dover.

“This is our third year having the Strawberry Queen visit us and dip strawberries for us,” Anthony said, adding that it is a tradition to carry on as long as there are strawberries, chocolates and of course, the queen.

For more information about the Strawberry Festival, please visit For information about Leena’s Chocolates, please call 643-8500 or visit

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