Plant City welcomed four new members into the Strawberry Festival Junior Royalty court Saturday, Jan. 19, at an event held at the Madonia Agricultural Show Center on the Strawberry Festival fairgrounds. It was the first time the Junior Royalty pageant was held at the 2-year-old facility. The evening began a 6 p.m. with a preliminary competition and was followed by entertainment performed by the outgoing 2012 Junior Royalty Court, an announcement of the top-10 finalists for each division, and a final competition that culminated in the selection of the 2013 Junior Royalty Court. The newest court members are Kamri DePianta, baroness; Bailey Brock, duchess; Kamille Long, princess; and Elizabeth Padilla as junior queen.
Hosting the evening were Elizabeth Pierce and Sara Beth Newsome. Four judges with backgrounds in modeling, pageantry, and education were asked to judge each contestant. The judges scored each of the 120 contestants according to three different catagories: personality, 25 percent, appearance, 25 percent, and natural beauty and smile, 50 percent. The pageant allows 30 contestants for each division. Each division is divided up by age ranging from 5 to 15 with titles starting with baroness, duchess, princess, and junior queen.
During the preliminary competition, each contestant strolled onto the stage wearing a glittering pageant dress suitable for their particular division. As they went through their stage routine the public heard information concerning each girl's parents, age, school and their favorite pastimes. Along with their beautiful dresses, each girl wore a wide armband that displayed their contestant number and a golden ribbon, the symbol for childhood cancer, was worn in honor of a contestant who had battled cancer for four years. The preliminary competition was followed by a dance routine performed by the 2012 Junior Royalty Court of Milee Hasting, baroness, Tori Wegner, duchess, Jadae Broome, princess, and Carly Knox, junior queen.
When it came time for the final competition, each remaining girl was asked to answer one question about the theme for the 2013 Florida Strawberry Festival. The theme this year is "Our Masterpiece of Fun," and each contestant was asked to explain what their personal masterpiece would be if they were asked to paint one. Answers ranged from kittens, hearts and strawberries in the younger age divisions to more mature themes as for the older divisions. Overcoming obstacles, working toward goals, and setting out to learn a new skill were popular answers. This year's winning junior queen responded that her masterpiece was her dress because she helped her grandmother, a seamstress, design and make the gown. She went on to say that her goal was to one day pursue a career in fashion design.
Each winner was crowned by the winner from the previous court amid cheers from the packed audience.
"We were thrilled with the winners, they were all beautiful, and they're all Plant City supporters and that's what makes it nice too," said pageant chairman Donna Keel.