Despite the difficulties of the last year due to the global pandemic, the Florida Strawberry Festival continued an age-old tradition of crowning the Florida Strawberry Festival queen and her court. McKenna Jordan was crowned the queen of the 86th Florida Strawberry Festival in its Queen’s Scholarship Pageant in January.
Jordan, who is a senior at Strawberry Crest High School, was selected from a field of 29 contestants. In addition to the queen, her court consists of First Maid Avery Surrency, a senior at Durant High School; KellieAnne Marie Kirkland, a senior at Strawberry Crest High School; Brynne Murphy, a senior at Durant High School; and Kate Turner, a senior at Bloomingdale High School.
Jordan said, “I wanted to participate in the Florida Strawberry Festival queen because I would be given the opportunity to serve my community, which is something I love doing. I would be able to meet new people, improve on my public speaking skills and I would also gain four new best friends.”
Jordan added, “When my name was announced to be the 2021 Florida Strawberry Festival queen, I dropped to the floor. Tears flooded my eyes and I was so overwhelmed with joy because it was something that I have been working towards for seven months. All of the hard work had paid off. My dad rushed the stage and gave me a fist pump, which was the best feeling in the world because I knew my family was so proud of me.”
Many young women who enter the contest have grown up attending the annual festival and seeing the queen.
Surrency said, “I can remember being 5 years old and going to the pageant and wanting to take pictures with the queen and court every year. Something inside of me always wanted to participate and dreamt of one day being on the court.”
Surrency added, “I hope that over the next year we have the chance to really get involved and work within our community. For me, this is an opportunity to give back and say ‘thank you’ for being the loving and caring community I have grown up in.”
Kirkland, Murphy and Turner each spoke of similar reasons why they wanted to be a part of this annual tradition. All of them wanted to serve the community, inspire other young girls and make lasting memories.
Each year, the queen and her court are honored with an exhibit at the Florida Strawberry Festival. For the last several years, Marsha Passmore and Dodie White, sisters and lifelong Plant City residents, have worked tirelessly to put together the beautiful exhibit.
A queen and her court have been selected each year, with the exception of the years during World War II (1942-1947).
This year’s exhibit featured a special case highlighting Catherine Fletcher, the 1940 Strawberry Festival queen. The exhibit contained the queen’s gown and some period pieces, including a bread box, a milk jug and more.
Passmore and White spoke about how rewarding it is to put the exhibit together each year, and how they stand back and listen to girls and families talk about their past experiences, including Kirkland, who said, “In 2015, Samantha Sun was queen. I performed at the Empty Bowls event, and I was super sick. I was critiquing the way I sounded. Samantha encouraged me to never stop singing. The way she engaged with me made me feel amazing. In that moment, I knew I wanted to participate.”
The Queen’s Scholarship Pageant is sponsored by the Plant City Lions Club. Orientation is held in October and applications are due in November. For more information, please visit www.flstrawberryfestival.com.